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Penguins' Schultz unlikely to debut vs. Rangers

Defenseman takes first skate after trade; Fast could return for New York

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

RANGERS (37-20-6) at PENGUINS (32-22-8)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, MSG 2, CSN-DC+

PITTSBURGH -- Defenseman Justin Schultz most likely won't make his Pittsburgh Penguins debut against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Schultz will see some time very soon, but didn't seem to mean Thursday.

"He hasn't skated in a few days," Sullivan said. "He hasn't really had an opportunity to spend any time with us as far as understanding how we're going to play. We thought it would make the most sense, in order to put him in a position to be successful, that he has an opportunity to practice with us before we put him in."

Schultz took part in his first Penguins morning skate Thursday, when he rotated on a third defensive pairing with defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Ian Cole. Immigration delayed the arrival of Schultz in Pittsburgh after being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, causing him to miss the Penguins' past two games (a 6-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday and a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday).

"It's just a fresh start," Schultz said. "Obviously, I had some tough times in Edmonton, but it's a new challenge for me, a new adventure, and I couldn't be more happy. … It's funny. Just being around guys like [Sidney Crosby] and [Evgeni Malkin], all these guys, gives you a little confidence to know they're on your team and they're going to be out there and have your back."

Because of the rotation on a third pairing, the status of Schultz for Thursday remains uncertain. Odds are he will not replace Cole, who was regularly healthy scratched before defenseman Ben Lovejoy sustained an upper-body injury Feb. 20.

The Penguins hope Schultz can bring additional speed to their already agile defensive corps despite a disappointing first 45 games this season. After scoring at least 31 points in each of the past two seasons, Schultz has three goals and 10 points in 2015-16.

Schultz has three assists since Jan. 12. Two of his three goals this season were scored four days apart, when he scored against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 8 and the Coyotes on Jan. 12.

Rangers forward Jesper Fast, who wasn't expected to make the trip to Pittsburgh, will play after missing one game with the flu. Defenseman Marc Staal is out with the same flu-like symptoms that sidelined Fast.

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Jesper Fast

Viktor Stalberg - Eric Staal - Kevin Hayes

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Oscar Lindberg

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Dan Boyle - Dylan McIlrath

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: Rick Nash (bone bruise), Marc Staal (flu)

Scratched: None

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Scott Wilson - Nick Bonino - Bryan Rust
Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Kevin Porter

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Trevor Daley - Brian Dumoulin
Ian Cole - Derrick Pouliot

Marc-Andre Fleury
Matthew Murray

Injured: Beau Bennett (upper body), Eric Fehr (lower body), Ben Lovejoy (upper body)
Scratched: Justin Schultz, Jeff Zatkoff

Status report: Pittsburgh re-assigned defenseman Steve Oleksy to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday, one day after recalling him. … Nash (bone bruise) skated on his own Thursday. He said he wants to take the injury day-by-day, but felt good on the ice.

Who's hot: Hornqvist has scored at least one point in three straight games, including against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, when he recorded his first NHL hat trick. … Stepan scored New York's shorthanded game-winning goal with 2:48 remaining in the third period of a 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.

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