The Pittsburgh Penguins
' depth is one of the organization's strengths. That depth will be severely tested Monday night against the streaking Boston Bruins
in an Eastern Conference matchup of division-leading teams.
The Penguins (16-7-4), who are 5-1-1 since star Sidney Crosby
returned, lead the Atlantic Division and the conference with 36 points. The Bruins (16-7-1) top the Northeast Division after going 13-0-1 in their previous 14.
"They've been at a high level, an elite level," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
said. "The best in the League."
Three of the six Penguins defensemen expected to be in uniform were with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) only days ago: Simon Despres
, Robert Bortuzzo
and Alexandre Picard. Picard returned to the Penguins Monday after Kris Letang
-- off to a fast start with 3 goals and 16 assists in 22 games -- was placed on the injured reserve list, backdated to Nov. 26.
Letang and Zbynek Michalek
, who have concussions, did not take part in the morning skate. The Penguins also are without defenseman Deryk Engelland
(lower body injury), who is listed as day-to-day. Forward Richard Park
(lower body injury) also missed practice.
While their forwards are healthy -- Jordan Staal
(cut below left eye) will play -- the Penguins will rely on a realigned defensive corps during their only home game in a two-week period. They went 3-1 on a just-concluded road trip, and will head off to play the Philadelphia Flyers
and New York Islanders
later this week.
"Situations like we've been in, you can expect to see a lot of different pairings," Bylsma said. "Paul Martin
with a lot of guys. Brooks Orpik
with a lot of guys. Matt Niskanen
with a lot of guys. If someone is playing well, you might play him more minutes."
The Penguins' expected lineup for the first of their four games against Boston this season:
- Sidney Crosby
- Pascal Dupuis
- Evgeni Malkin
- James Neal
- Jordan Staal
- Tyler Kennedy
- Joe Vitale
- Craig Adams
- Paul Martin
- Simon Despres
- Alexandre Picard
, tied for the NHL lead with 14 victories and 11-2-2 in his last 15 starts, will be in net. Backup goalie Brent Johnson
won at Carolina 3-2 on Saturday, holding on even as the Hurricanes ended the game with a three-man advantage after pulling their goalie.