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Penguins' Crosby skates, Neal and Martin to return

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby took part in a Pittsburgh Penguins morning skate for the first time in almost exactly a month Saturday.

Crosby won't play in the regular-season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes, but he might have learned whom coach Dan Bylsma has in store as his linemates for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They appear to be very familiar ones.

James Neal said he will be on the right wing of Evgeni Malkin with Jarome Iginla on the left side Saturday in Neal's return after missing eight games because of a concussion. Bylsma has said the Penguins are using the regular-season finale as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the postseason.

Crosby's wings for most of the season, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, appear to be together with Jussi Jokinen. When Jokinen was acquired from Carolina at the NHL Trade Deadline earlier this month, the Penguins made no secret Jokinen was brought in as a stopgap -- and as insurance -- for an injured Crosby. That would signal Kunitz and Dupuis will be with Crosby when he is cleared to play.

The line of Kunitz, Crosby and Dupuis was far and away the most productive in the NHL through 36 games. Iginla, Neal and Malkin have been playing together when all are healthy. Iginla and Neal are right wings by trade, but Neal said he will stay on that side with Iginla shifting to the left.

"He feels a lot more comfortable there (than when he first came to Pittsburgh); you can see it with his play and how well he's been doing," Neal said. "I'm going to fit in on the right and go from there. We definitely have some guys who can fit in some different spots, and in the future who knows what the combinations will be? It kind of switches around, but that versatility's always a good thing to have."

Defenseman Paul Martin also is back in the lineup after an extended absence. He has been out since March 28 because of a broken bone in his hand. Martin will have extra padding and protection in his glove.

"It feels good as far as shooting and passing and everything you need to play I'm able to do it," Martin said. "So hopefully there's no limitations.

"I just want to kind of prepare for the playoffs. It's good to get a game in and get timing down, and speed. It's been almost a month so it'll just be good to get in there."

Defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward Joe Vitale each continue to be out because of a lower-body injury. Vitale skated with Crosby before the morning skate and Bylsma termed Vitale and Orpik as day to day.

Bylsma did not update the status of Crosby, who is recovering from a broken jaw but has been cleared for practice. Crosby, who stayed on the ice with his teammates for the optional morning skate Saturday, said he likely will have more root canals performed but that the procedures on his jaw are completed. He is hopeful to return for Game 1 of the first round, which likely will be Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

"I'm just trying to make sure I get as much work as I can," Crosby said.

"As far as trying to get ready to play, I'm just trying to skate and keep in shape. I can't play until I'm cleared, so it's not something that I can really control. There's nothing I can do to heal more or accelerate the process. I just can make sure I'm in good shape."


Chris KunitzJussi JokinenPascal Dupuis

Jarome IginlaEvgeni Malkin - James Neal

Brenden Morrow - Brandon SutterMatt Cooke

Tanner GlassCraig Adams - Tyler Kennedy

Kris LetangMark Eaton

Douglas MurrayMatt Niskanen

Paul MartinSimon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tomas Vokoun

Injured: Sidney Crosby (jaw), Brooks Orpik (lower body), Joe Vitale (lower body)

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland, Eric Hartzell, Dustin Jeffrey, Steve MacIntyre, Beau Bennett

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