PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will likely have forwards Brandon Sutter and Joe Vitale in their lineup to start their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the New York Rangers on Friday.
Sutter and Vitale each left Pittsburgh's Game 6 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets early with apparent injuries. Sutter returned to the bench late in the third period but did not step back on the ice. Vitale did not return after a knee-to-knee hit that left him lying on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the locker room.
Sutter said he expects to play in Game 1 at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"I think everyone feels good," Sutter said. "We had a couple days to rest and had a good few practices and hopefully we're all feeling fresh by tonight. [The Rangers] definitely had a good second half. They played well and managed to get home ice in the first round. It's going to be a tight series and we expect tight, tight games."
Their potential absences could have been noticeable considering their contributions throughout the Penguins' Eastern Conference First Round series victory. Sutter finished tied for the team lead with three goals, and Vitale's forechecking through the final two games of the series helped to keep the Blue Jackets confined to their zone.
Having a relatively healthy lineup gives Penguins coach Dan Bylsma options he was not afforded during the regular season, when the Penguins had more than 500 man-games lost to injury.
"When we were banged up like we were this year, things were kind of all over the place," Vitale said. "To stay relatively healthy as we are right now, it's big. Especially when we're moving centermen to wing and wings to centerman, kind of mixing lines in and out.
"To have that depth and that versatility with individual players is kind of key for [Bylsma] and key for his job."
Though the Penguins remain healthier than they had been throughout much of the regular season, they will be without defenseman Brooks Orpik on Friday. Orpik missed a third consecutive morning skate with an undisclosed injury and will likely be replaced again by Robert Bortuzzo.
Here are the projected lineups:
Rick Nash – Derek Stepan – Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin – Brad Richards – Daniel Carcillo
Brian Boyle – Dominic Moore – Derek Dorsett
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
John Moore – Kevin Klein
Scratched: Jesper Fast, Ryan Haggerty, J.T. Miller, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk
Injured: Chris Kreider (hand)
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Joe Vitale
Tanner Glass – Marcel Goc – Craig Adams
Paul Martin – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Matt Niskanen
Rob Scuderi – Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Jayson Megna, Taylor Pyatt, Deryk Engelland, Chris Conner
Injured: Brooks Orpik (undisclosed), Brian Gibbons (undisclosed), Pascal Dupuis (ACL), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)