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Dumoulin hopes to play Game 1 for Penguins against Islanders

Defenseman takes full contact in practice, has been sidelined with lower-body injury

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Brian Dumoulin is a game-time decision for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG+, ATTSN-PT).

The defenseman took full contact in practice Monday and Tuesday, skating on the fourth pair with Zach Trotman, after missing the final three regular-season games with a lower-body injury.

"It's day by day," Dumoulin said. "I don't want to rush it. I don't want anything to happen where I get a setback and stuff like that. I just want to take it day by day. Obviously, I hope and I want to play Wednesday, but if that's not the case, that's not the case. I just want to take as many steps possible in the right direction."


[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Penguins series coverage]


If Dumoulin plays, he will likely reunite with Kris Letang on the top defense pair. Olli Maatta skated with Letang on Tuesday after Jack Johnson and Letang were paired Monday.

"To have a full complement of players, I think makes our team more competitive," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "It makes for difficult decisions for the coaching staff, but those are good decisions to have. The reality is, we feel as though for us to reach our ultimate goal, you have to have depth. You got to have everyone contributing."

Maatta or Marcus Pettersson would likely be scratched if Dumoulin is in the lineup. Pettersson maintained his usual pair with Erik Gudbranson during practice Tuesday, making it possible Maatta is filling in on the top pair before sitting when Dumoulin returns.

However, none of that is set in stone.

"We'll make the decisions accordingly when the time comes," Sullivan said. "Obviously, they're difficult decisions when we have a healthy group of defensemen. All those guys have done a great job of helping us win games down the stretch. So it presents a difficult decision for the coaching staff.

"It's a good problem to have, or it's not even a problem. It's a challenge. It's a good challenge to have. We'll communicate, as best we can, with our players as we always try to do. Everybody has to stay ready."

Dumoulin, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, had an NHL career high 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 76 games this season. He was a team-best plus-31, ahead of center Sidney Crosby (plus-18).

"He's a tremendous defenseman, obviously," Letang said. "We're excited that he's on the ice right now and he's making progress. He's a big part of our team. ... He does so many things. He's a really good defender. He plays hard. He can skate with the puck. He has good vision to break the puck up. He does so many things out there."

Forward Zach Aston-Reese, who has been out since March 10 with a lower-body injury, is also a game-time decision.

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