PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will welcome back several players to their lineup when they face the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
In addition to the return of defenseman Kris Letang, forwards Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were back at their normal positions on Pittsburgh's top line during the morning skate Wednesday, and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma confirmed defenseman Olli Maatta will be paired with defenseman Matt Niskanen against Detroit.
Crosby and Maatta missed the Penguins' game against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday each with an upper-body injury, and Kunitz was sidelined with a lower-body injury.
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Red Wings coach Mike Babcock complimented Kunitz, who has scored a career-high 35 goals and 67 points this season, after Detroit's optional morning skate.
"I was in Anaheim when he came out of college and I thought, 'Oh my God' when I saw him. I thought, 'I don't know how he's going to play,'" Babcock said. "He's smart and very, very competitive. He knows how to play.
"He now plays with Crosby on a line and has won Stanley Cups and won a gold medal, so we weren't very smart."
Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk will play in his fourth straight game since missing 16 due to a knee injury. Bylsma said he expects the matchup to be a measuring stick for the teams with players returning on each side recently.
"They've been playing very well to put themselves in position to be in the playoffs," Bylsma said. "They've kind of been adding players back to their lineup as well. You can see in their lineup some of the young players they have. We're expecting this to be a potential first-round matchup and for it to be played as much."
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Beau Bennett
Brian Gibbons – Jussi Jokinen – James Neal
Tanner Glass – Brandon Sutter – Lee Stempniak
Taylor Pyatt – Craig Adams – Adam Payerl
Kris Letang – Rob Scuderi
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Olli Maatta – Matt Niskanen
Scratched: Simon Despres, Deryk Engelland, Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Evgeni Malkin (foot), Marcel Goc (foot), Joe Vitale (upper body), Chris Conner (broken foot), Pascal Dupuis (ACL), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)
Justin Abdelkader – Pavel Datsyuk – Johan Franzen
Gustav Nyquist – Riley Sheahan – Tomas Tatar
Darren Helm – David Legwand – Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller – Luke Glendening – Tomas Jurco
Niklas Kronwall – Brendan Smith
Kyle Quincey – Danny DeKeyser
Jakub Kindl – Brian Lashoff
Scratched: Joakim Andersson, Todd Bertuzzi
Injured: Stephen Weiss (hernia), Henrik Zetterberg (back), Jonathan Ericsson (finger), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), Daniel Cleary (knee)