PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup will most likely remain the same when they face the New York Rangers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series.
Defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Christian Ehrhoff, who are each recovering from upper-body injuries, will most likely miss a third game to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pouliot was the first skater on the ice for Pittsburgh's Monday morning skate, but practiced alongside defenseman Scott Harrington on a fourth pairing.
Ehrhoff, who had practiced recently, did not participate in the skate and might not return in the near future.
"[Ehrhoff] just hasn't been progressing," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "That's the step that's been taken and it's because he's sort of flat-lined in his recovery and will be progressing from there."
With Ehrhoff and Pouliot, in addition to Kris Letang and Olli Maatta out, the Penguins' defense has become reliant on American Hockey League call-ups, including the pairing of Taylor Chorney and Brian Dumoulin. They expect the Rangers to continue to increase their physicality to try to exploit the thinning Pittsburgh blue line.
"It certainly wouldn't surprise me if that was a mindset going in, part of their game plan. And that's fine," defenseman Ian Cole said. "We've got some sturdy defenseman here, not afraid of contact, not going to shy away from it. If it needs to be done as far as taking a hit to make a play we'll certainly make sure we take that hit and get the puck out."
Johnston said Pittsburgh's lineup for Game 3 has not been finalized. Forward Scott Wilson could potentially replace Beau Bennett in the bottom six.
If the Penguins use the same lineup from its 4-3 Game 2 win to tie the series 1-1 and play more at even strength, they are confident it can produce a similar result Monday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA, MSG, ROOT).
"We feel we can outplay the Rangers, 5-on-5," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "They have a ton of talent, a ton of speed. We think we do too. I think that if we continue to take seven penalties, they're going to beat us. I don't know how their numbers are throughout the season with their power play, but it gives them so much momentum, it grinds us down.
"[The Rangers] may be [a better 5-on-5 team] in the regular season, but right now, we feel we're a very even team. We feel we can outplay them 5-on-5."
Here are the projected lineups:
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: Chris Summers, James Sheppard
Injured: Kevin Klein (arm)
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Daniel Winnik – Evgeni Malkin – David Perron
Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Steve Downie
Nick Spaling – Maxim Lapierre – Blake Comeau
Paul Martin – Ben Lovejoy
Rob Scuderi – Ian Cole
Brian Dumoulin – Taylor Chorney
Scratched: Craig Adams, Scott Wilson, Scott Harrington
Injured: Kris Letang (concussion), Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Derrick Pouliot (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body)
Status report: No update was provided on Letang. He last played March 28, when he sustained a concussion after playing 14:24 against the Arizona Coyotes.
Who's hot: Crosby ignited for two goals in Game 2 Saturday. He has scored 20 points and nine goals in his past 18 games dating back to March 9 … Kunitz broke out of a slump with three points and one goal Saturday. He had one point in his previous 19 games.