WINNIPEG -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will have defenseman Paul Martin back when they play the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at MTS Centre.
Martin has missed the Penguins' past 18 games with a broken hand and has not dressed for an NHL game since Feb. 7. He broke his hand playing for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Injuries have hampered the 33-year-old, who missed 23 games earlier in the season with a broken tibia and has played 33 games this season. He has two goals and 10 assists.
"The doctors said that it was up to me," said Martin, who resumed practicing with his teammates this week. "I said I'm ready."
With Martin back in the lineup, the Penguins begin a three-game road trip when they will face the Minnesota Wild on Saturday before playing the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
Comfortably positioned in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points, the Penguins will begin their final push toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They will clinch the division with at least one point against the Jets, if the Philadelphia Flyers lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets in any fashion, or if the Flyers defeat the Blue Jackets in as shootout.
Having an opportunity to play before postseason competition factored into Martin's decision to return now.
"It's good that we still have six games before the playoffs," Martin said after the morning skate. "It's part of the reason that I kind of wanted to push and get some games in before the playoffs to shake off some rust and get back into the timing and everything."
Martin will pair with Brooks Orpik. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is a possibility to sit out the game to make room for Martin.
"I think it's a good chance for [Martin] to play some games before the playoffs come around," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "So I think it's going to be good to get him back in there and get him back in there in a lot of different situations. Power play for our team, penalty kill, and have him playing out there for a number of games before the playoffs."
The Jets are winding another season in which they likely will not qualify for the postseason.
"It's going to be a long summer, let's put it that way, if we don't make it again, so there's nothing to save [energy] for," Jets center Bryan Little said. "Why not throw everything we have at these [final] five games? Play relaxed, but work hard, compete and battle."
Right wing Devin Setoguchi will be a healthy scratch for the fourth time in the past five games.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the Penguins. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets.
Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Jets:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak
Beau Bennett - Jussi Jokinen - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Brian Gibbons
Tanner Glass - Craig Adams - Jayson Megna
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen
Deryk Engelland - Rob Scuderi
Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres
Injured: Chris Conner (broken foot), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Marcel Goc (foot), Kris Letang (stroke), Evgeni Malkin (foot), Joe Vitale (upper body), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik
Dustin Byfuglien - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Eric O'Dell - Matt Halischuk
Eric Tangradi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso
Tobias Enstrom - Paul Postma
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy - Zach Redmond
Scratched: Ben Chiarot, Devin Setoguchi
Injured: Zach Bogosian (upper body), Grant Clitsome (back), Keaton Elletrby (lower body), Al Montoya (undisclosed), Mark Scheifele (knee), Chris Thorburn (talus), James Wright (ankle)