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Penguins' Dumoulin, Bennett game-time decisions

Pittsburgh aims for seventh straight win against Wedgewood, New Jersey

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

DEVILS (35-31-7) at PENGUINS (40-24-8)


PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forward Beau Bennett will be game-time decisions against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, coach Mike Sullivan said.

Dumoulin and Bennett participated in Pittsburgh's optional Thursday morning skate a day after taking part in its second practice since a 6-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday. After being hit into the boards by Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin 7:27 into the third period, Dumoulin exited the game with an undisclosed injury.

In his first NHL season with more than eight games played, Dumoulin has settled into a defensive pairing with Trevor Daley. Despite failing to score a goal in 72 games, Dumoulin has been one of Pittsburgh's most consistent defensemen with 16 assists and a plus-11 rating, which ranks second among Penguins defensemen behind Olli Maatta.

"It was good to have a full practice yesterday," Dumoulin said. "During the season, it's good to have a few days off and be able to rest and get healthy. I feel good and am ready to go for tonight. … We'll see how it goes. It felt good out here, but I just want to be out there and help the team anyway I can, so hopefully I'll be in tonight."

An upper-body injury has forced Bennett to miss all but one game since Dec. 14. He returned against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 23, when he played 8:08 across 13 shifts, before missing the Penguins' next 25 games.

Bennett said he feels ready to return since the Penguins took "a little more cautious approach this time around."

Pittsburgh will attempt to finish a stretch of nine consecutive games against Metropolitan Division opponents at 8-1-0. The Penguins are on a six-game winning streak, which matches their season-long and is the NHL's longest active streak. They haven't won seven straight games since Oct. 25-Nov. 8, 2014.

Bennett said he understands it might be difficult for Sullivan to insert him into a lineup that is clicking.

"For me, personally, you want to play. Selfishly, you want to play," Bennett said. "But if the team's winning six games, something's going well and everyone's doing their part. So you don't want to break up the lineup. You don't want to break up the mojo. At the same time, I feel I can help contribute going into the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs."

Devils goalie Scott Wedgewood will make his second NHL start Thursday after making his debut in a 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

New Jersey forward Blake Pietila could make his NHL debut against the Penguins. If he does, Devils coach John Hynes said he will play center and forward Sergey Kalinin would shift to wing.

"It's pretty exciting," Pietila said. "My dad didn't answer his phone, so I called my mom and had her give the phone to him and told him first. … He was excited. Obviously, it's my first year pro. I wasn't surprised, but I wasn't expecting it and obviously it's exciting for everyone."

Here are the projected lineups:

Joseph Blandisi - Adam Henrique - Devante Smith-Pelly
Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Sergey Kalinin - Blake Pietila - Mike Sislo
Bobby Farnham - Stephen Gionta - Tuomo Ruutu

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
David Warsofsky - Damon Severson
Seth Helgeson - Vojtech Mozik

Scott Wedgewood
Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Michael Cammalleri (upper body), Patrik Elias (knee), Jacob Josefson (upper body), Tyler Kennedy (lower body), Jon Merrill (upper body), John Moore (lower body), David Schlemko (upper body), Cory Schneider (grade 1 MCL sprain), Jiri Tlusty (upper body), Jordin Tootoo (upper body)
Scratched: None

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Bryan Rust
Conor Sheary - Oskar Sundqvist - Eric Fehr

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Trevor Daley
Ian Cole - Justin Schultz

Marc-Andre Fleury
Matthew Murray

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Beau Bennett (upper body), Kevin Porter (ankle surgery), Scott Wilson (lower body)
Scratched: Derrick Pouliot, Ben Lovejoy, Jeff Zatkoff

Status report: Moore will be a game-time decision. If Moore does not play, Helgeson will replace him, Hynes said.

Who's hot: Crosby extended his scoring streak to 12 games with two assists against Washington. He is the only NHL player with multiple streaks of at least 11 games this season. … Palmieri has scored at least one point his past three games. He leads New Jersey with 27 goals and 50 points.

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