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Malkin in, Kunitz out for Penguins

by Dan Rosen /
The Pittsburgh Penguins got a boost to their lineup when forward Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup Tuesday night after being sidelined for four games due to a knee injury.

Malkin was in the starting lineup playing on a line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. He took the place of Chris Kunitz, who was scratched after both players took part in the morning skate. Coach Dan Bylsma said Kunitz got banged up during Saturday's 5-2 victory at Buffalo.

The Penguins are seeking their 13th consecutive victory as they face the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.

At the morning skate, Malkin acted as an extra forward -- but did participate in some power-play drills and said afterward that he intended to play. Kunitz did line rushes with Crosby and Pascal Dupuis.

"(Kunitz) looked fine and hopefully there is no question there, but injuries are something we've dealt with a bit and we'll see what happens," Crosby said after the skate. "He's been playing some great hockey and creating a lot."

Whoever is in the Penguins' lineup Tuesday will be facing a hot Flyers goalie, and he's not named Sergei Bobrovsky.

Brian Boucher has earned his third straight start on merit. He stopped 66 of 68 shots to lead the Flyers to back-to-back wins at Toronto and at Boston. Boucher is 4-0-1 with a 1.71 goals-against average and .951 save percentage over his last five starts, but that goes back to Nov. 20 at Washington.

"He's played extremely well," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Bob (Bobrovsky) has played well also this year, but Boosh (Boucher) has had rest, he looks sharp."

Tuesday's game is only one of two on the NHL schedule and some are calling it the League's most important game of the season to date. Flyers captain Mike Richards doesn't necessarily disagree.

"It is a regular-season game in December and I know the media looks for a lot of different ways to publicize it and pump it up, but am I going to lie to you and say it wouldn't be nice to win tonight and break it (the Penguins winning streak)? No, it would be," Richards told "Is it a big game? For a lot of reasons, yeah, it is. So I'm not going to bring it down or pump it up any more than it needs to be. I think the fans are going to be excited and we're excited to play, to kind of gauge ourselves against one of the better teams in the League. It's going to be an entertaining match."
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