MONTREAL – The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a different lineup for the fourth-straight time in this Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens when Game 4 begins Thursday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
There is a possibility Jordan Staal, less than a week removed from foot surgery, could play in Game 4 at the Bell Centre. But the Penguins most likely will be without forwards Bill Guerin and Mike Rupp.
Guerin, who missed Game 3 with an undisclosed ailment, skated Thursday morning, but will not be ready for Game 4. He said Game 5 is a distinct possibility, though.
"I'm not going to say yes or not, but I will tell you that my goal is to play Game 5," Guerin said. "Right now that's what I'm shooting for. I felt good on the ice this morning and had a lot of energy, a lot of good jokes in the locker room this morning, so I'm feeling better."
Good enough not only to take part in the morning skate, but stay for an extended workout with the scratches.
"It was a surprise to get him out there on the ice this morning," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He looked good. He doesn't look a day over 39. It was good to have him back out there, but he is day to day and not probable for tonight."
Rupp, a fourth-line energy player, also is not probable for Game 4 as he deals with an unspecified, non-hockey related situation.
"I won't change my policy, but he is not dealing with a hockey injury," Bylsma said. "Undisclosed, but I don't expect him tonight. It's still a possibility."
While those losses up front will hurt, they will hurt a lot less if Staal can answer the bell just six days after suffering a sliced tendon in his right foot during Game 1.
Staal was very active in the morning skate and showed marked improvement from Wednesday's practice, which was his first full practice since undergoing surgery to fix the tendon injury.
"He looked good out there," Bylsma said. "He was out there skating around and in some battle situations, so we will see tonight."
If Staal had his way, he would put himself in the lineup. He believes he already has missed two games too many with this injury. He insists he is ready to give it a go.
"It's tough to say right now, but we'll see how it goes," Staal said. "But I'm feeling again really good out there and really comfortable.
"It's obviously the coaches; it's their decision on whether I'm in or not. I'm going to give my two cents to them and we'll see how they take it. I always want to play. Whether or not it happens, we'll see how it goes."
If Staal does return to the lineup for Game 4, he will not play his regular shut-down role. Bylsma admitted he will try to spot Staal more judiciously as he works his way back into game shape.
"When and if he was able to play, you'll probably see a situation where he won't be placed directly back into 20 minutes a night in every situation," Bylsma said. "We'll have to wait and see how it goes."