NEW YORK -- Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Taylor Chorney and Brian Dumoulin will make their debuts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, ROOT, MSG).
Chorney and Dumoulin have been forced into duty because of the injuries the Penguins have sustained on defense. The Penguins, who had 343 regular season man-games lost to injury according to mangameslost.com, will be without Kris Letang (concussion), Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) and Derrick Pouliot (upper body) in the series opener.
"The good thing for [Chorney and Dumoulin] is they both skate really well," Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said after the morning skate at Madison Square Garden. "Dumoulin is a big guy (6-foot-4, 207 pounds), but when you watch him skate it's effortless. You want your defense to be mobile because the Rangers have a dynamic attack; they're quick and have a lot of speed up front. You can't get caught flat-footed."
Despite playing a combined 15 regular-season games this season, Chorney and Dumoulin have partnered together for more than 50 games with the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and have formed a good bond.
"I think there's chemistry with familiarity and having a good feel for each other when we played in Wilkes-Barre," Chorney said. "It's a different league but at the same time having that experience together should serve us well [in Game 1]."
Chorney, 27, recalled from Wilkes-Barre on April 3, had four goals and 19 points in 62 AHL games. Dumoulin, 23, recalled April 12, led all Wilkes-Barre defensemen in assists (29) and points (33) in 2014-15. Dumoulin also has five goals and 20 points in 32 AHL playoff games spanning the past two seasons.
What is the key against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers and their deep and talented group of forwards?
"Keep it simple; stick to the habits and details you had your whole life and the things you have worked on," Dumoulin said. "I think it's important to just possess the puck and try to make them play defense as much as possible."
Each player will look to veteran defenders Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi when needed.
"The one guy I've been fortunate to know since we have the same agent is Paul Martin," Chorney said. "The way he plays and makes the game looks so easy is something to see; he's so reliable. To watch him go about his business and the way he handles himself in big situations, I could learn from that."
Johnston said he feels Chorney and Dumoulin have enough experience to feel at ease in such a pressure-packed atmosphere.
"The coaches in Wilkes-Barre said these guys feed off each other well, so putting them together is a natural for us," Johnston said. "We'll keep the pairs as we had them last game. Dumoulin moves the puck well and can skate and Chorney is at the top of his game. He has had a lot of experience and is poised and little bit of an older player; he won't be intimidated."
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said the entire team must be cognizant of its own zone and help out where needed.
"We just got to commit to playing the same way the whole series, no matter what happens," he said. "We know what our game looks like and we know our identity at this point."
The loss of Letang has hurt, but Crosby believes the team must find a way.
"Yeah, [Letang] is a big part of it, he plays a ton of minutes for us and is looked to do that a lot," Crosby said. "I think it's just as a group making sure everybody is an option. Where he might have skated with it and made one pass we might have to make a couple and really support each other up ice, but there's nothing wrong with that."
Here are the projected lineups:
Daniel Winnik - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - David Perron
Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie
Nick Spaling - Maxim Lapierre - Blake Comeau
Paul Martin - Ben Lovejoy
Rob Scuderi - Ian Cole
Taylor Chorney - Brian Dumoulin
Scratched: Scott Harrington, Craig Adams, Scott Wilson
Injured: Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Kris Letang (concussion), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body), Derrick Pouliot (upper body)
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: James Sheppard, Chris Summers
Injured: Kevin Klein (arm)
Status report: Johnston said after the Penguins' morning skate that Ehrhoff and Pouliot, who both skated Thursday, were progressing and moving along in the right direction. Ehrhoff practiced and took contact for a third straight day. Pouliot practiced for the second time since sustaining an upper-body injury April 7 in Ottawa. Both players will be re-evaluated Friday.
Who's hot: Crosby has eight goals and 20 points in his past 18 games.