PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy thinks there are three things the his team must do to avoid another slow start against the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
"We need to be mentally focused, we need to come out and win battles, and we need to play smart," Lovejoy said. "Last game we didn't do those things. We were turning pucks over, which led to them being able to utilize their quick-strike offense. We weren't winning battles.
"We came out maybe with our brains turned off."
Pittsburgh, which trails the best-of-7 series 2-1, will attempt to move that switch to the on position in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, MSG, ROOT).
"I think we've had portions of games, and certainly stretches of games, where we've been fairly dominant and really carried the play," defenseman Ian Cole said. "They're obviously a good team. They're trying hard too. They're trying to win the game just as much as we are. So I think it's a challenge to try to take their speed and take their transition game and make that kind of a non-factor. And it's hard.
"But I think when we get pucks down low and grind them down low it certainly helps us."
Without three key defensemen because of injuries to Kris Letang (concussion), Christian Ehrhoof (upper body) and Derrick Pouliot (upper body), the Penguins have had to depend on American Hockey League call-ups Taylor Chorney and Brian Dumoulin, as well as Scott Harrington, to fill the void. Lovejoy said he feels Pittsburgh has "six very smart defensemen playing right now."
That being said, the Penguins would like to welcome Pouliot back into the lineup. Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Pouliot, who participated in Pittsburgh's Wednesday morning skate, is "really close to playing," but did not disclose his availability for Game 4.
With or without Pouliot, the Penguins feel they must get off to a better start in order to tie the series 2-2 heading back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Friday. Lovejoy had Pittsburgh's first shot of Game 3, but it came from center ice with 4:50 remaining in the first period.
"We didn't have a great start in Game 1. We didn't have a great start in Game 3. It's inexcusable," Lovejoy said. "We're professionals. We're excited to be out here. We feel we have a good team. We feel we can beat the Rangers.
"It doesn't matter how we feel. We have to go out and prove it."
Here are the projected lineups:
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller
Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Martin St. Louis
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle - Matt Hunwick
Scratched: Chris Summers, James Sheppard
Injured: Kevin Klein (arm)
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Blake Comeau - Evgeni Malkin - David Perron
Scott Wilson - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie
Nick Spaling - Maxim Lapierre - Daniel Winnik
Paul Martin - Ben Lovejoy
Rob Scuderi - Ian Cole
Brian Dumoulin - Taylor Chorney
Scratched: Craig Adams, Scott Harrington
Injured: Beau Bennett (upper body), Kris Letang (concussion), Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Derrick Pouliot (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body)
Status report: Bennett participated in the Penguins' morning skate after missing Game 3. He also took part in practice Tuesday. … The Penguins held an optional morning skate. Crosby, Martin, Downie and Comeau were among those who did not take part.
Who's hot: Hornqvist scored Pittsburgh's goal in its Game 3 loss and has one point in each of his past two games. He leads the Penguins with 12 shots on goal through three games. … Crosby followed his two-goal performance in Game 2 with an assist on Hornqvist's goal in Game 3. His three points have him tied with Kunitz for the Penguins lead.