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Penguins' Maatta could return for Game 6

Pittsburgh defenseman to be game-time decision; Washington's Orpik to play

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent


Eastern Conference Second Round

Pittsburgh leads best-of 7 series 3-2

TV: 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins could add a key defenseman to their lineups for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik will return from his three-game suspension Tuesday. He had been punished for a hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in the first period of Game 2 on April 30.

Maatta, 21, has been out the past three games because of an upper-body injury sustained on the hit by Orpik but could play Tuesday.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Maatta would be a game-time decision. Maatta took part in an optional morning skate. He had taken contact at practice Monday, where he was paired with defenseman Trevor Daley and took part in drills with the second power-play unit.

"If [Maatta] plays, he's a very good player," Sullivan said. "He's a very smart player ... I think he has good awareness on both sides of the puck. He passes the puck well. He can join the rush. He has good poise. For a young player, sometimes we forget how young he is because we play him in such an important role on our team, but for a young player I think he has poise beyond his years."

If Maatta plays, Sullivan said he would not rule out dressing seven defensemen.

"There's nothing that's off the table," he said. "Sometimes we've used it. Sometimes we haven't. It depends on the circumstance."

Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said it's good to see Maatta progressing the way he has.

"The amount of minutes he can eat and how well he plays against top guys, it's something where getting him back is certainly a celebrated thing," Cole said. "He's everybody's … one of their favorite teammates. Awesome guy. So the ability for him to come back and get fully healthy again is great news."

The Penguins will stick with Matt Murray in goal. He had allowed three goals on 19 shots in the Penguins' 3-1 loss in Game 5. Marc-Andre Fleury will be the backup.

Orpik did not participate in the Capitals' optional morning skate Tuesday. He likely will be paired with defenseman John Carlson in Game 6. Cole said the Penguins are aware of Orpik's potential impact, particularly on a penalty kill that has frustrated the Penguins by allowing one goal on nine opportunities the past three games without him.

Forward Jason Chimera was one of several Capitals players eager to welcome Orpik back to the lineup.

"Everyone knows how he plays," Chimera said. "He challenges people physically and he's a big part of our defense here. It's sure nice to have him back for sure. He's a big piece."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said it's exciting from a coach's perspective to enter a game with each team potentially having its full complement of players.

"You never want to go into a series missing some pieces," Trotz said. "They're going to put their best game out. We're going to put our best game out. And whatever happens, happens. … You get to see what you're capable of. … It's great that both of them are coming back at the same time."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Justin Williams

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Injured: None

Scratched: Nate Schmidt, Michael Latta, Stanislav Galiev, Mike Weber


Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Eric Fehr

Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Bryan Rust

Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Trevor Daley

Ian Cole - Ben Lovejoy

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injured: Kevin Porter (ankle surgery), Scott Wilson (lower body), Beau Bennett (undisclosed)

Scratched: Jeff Zatkoff, Derrick Pouliot, Justin Schultz, Oskar Sundqvist

Status report: Holtby did not participate in the morning skate but will start in goal. … The Capitals are expected to keep Ovechkin with Kuznetsov in Game 6 after Ovechkin had a goal and an assist playing with Kuznetsov in Game 5. … Crosby and Hornqvist were reunited on the top line after being separated during the third period of a 3-1 loss in Game 5 on Saturday. Hornqvist is expected to play right wing alongside Crosby. Kuhnhackl, who moved into Hornqvist's spot in Game 5, will return to the fourth line. … Maatta left the ice before Pouliot and Schultz after the morning skate.

Who's hot: Ovechkin has five points in five games against the Penguins this series. … Murray has allowed three goals or fewer in five of his eight Stanley Cup Playoff starts.

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