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Martin, Neal could return for Penguins

Monday, 01.20.2014 / 1:29 PM | Wes Crosby  - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will likely be the healthiest they've been in nearly two months when they face the Florida Panthers on Monday at Consol Energy Center.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said three injured Penguins will return against Florida but did not specify which three. He said the returning players will give the Penguins eight healthy defensemen, indicating Paul Martin, who has missed 23 games with a broken tibia, will return.

Although Martin was paired with Brooks Orpik at the morning skate, Bylsma said Martin will be eased into the lineup.

"He's been out for a long time, an extended period of time. He wasn't able to walk for a good portion of that time period," Bylsma said. "When he gets back in the lineup, it's going to be a progression of what he brings.

"He's not going to jump back in and play a shutdown role."

James Neal, Chuck Kobasew and Jayson Megna also participated in line drills during the morning skate. Neal, who missed the game against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday with an upper-body injury, skated alongside linemates Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.

"I feel good," Neal said. "I'm ready to go tonight. We've kind of been in and out, and lines have been mixed and matched quite a bit. We've done a good job of trying to come back and get right back into the swing of things."

Kobasew and Megna missed six and 13 games respectively, each with a lower-body injury.

Florida forward Tomas Kopecky did not participate in the Panthers' morning skate. Panthers coach Peter Horachek said he expects Kopecky to return by Friday, but he could return Tuesday. Forward Jesse Winchester will return to the lineup in Kopecky's absence after missing 14 games with a broken hand.

"I think it's time. I think [Winchester] going back in the lineup will be good for us," Horachek said. "I think he's a pro. He works hard and he does the right things. So, we're anxious to get him back in there."

Goalie Tim Thomas is ill and Scott Clemmensen will start for Florida, Horachek said.

Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Panthers:

PANTHERS

Sean BergenheimAleksander BarkovBrad Boyes

Tomas FleischmannNick BjugstadScottie Upshall

Jonathan HuberdeauMarcel GocJesse Winchester

Krys BarchDrew ShoreShawn Matthias

Brian CampbellTom Gilbert

Erik GudbransonEd Jovanovski

Dmitry KulikovMike Weaver

Scott Clemmensen

Tim Thomas

Injured: Dylan Olsen (upper body), Alex Petrovic (hand), Mike Mottau (leg), Tomas Kopecky (upper body)

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Jimmy Hayes

PENGUINS

Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyChuck Kobasew

Jussi JokinenEvgeni MalkinJames Neal

Taylor PyattBrandon SutterTanner Glass

Craig AdamsZach SillJayson Megna

Rob ScuderiKris Letang

Brooks OrpikPaul Martin

Olli MaattaMatt Niskanen

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (ACL), Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Joe Vitale (upper body), Brian Gibbons (lower body), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland

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