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Stanley Cup Final

Conor Sheary joins Sidney Crosby on Penguins' top line at practice

Pittsburgh changes forwards in preparation for Game 5 of Cup Final against Predators

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins lineup could have a different look when they face the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports, SN).

The Penguins adjusted their forward lines during practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Wednesday. The most notable change was Conor Sheary's promotion from the fourth line, where he played during Pittsburgh's 4-1 loss in Game 4, to first-line right wing with center Sidney Crosby and left wing Jake Guentzel.

"I do have a comfort level with [Crosby and Guentzel]," Sheary said. "Nothing's really set in stone until game time. If I do get that opportunity I just think I need to focus on bringing what I can and trying to help make that line better."

 

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The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.

Sheary has one goal in 20 games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in Game 1 of the Final, which Pittsburgh won 5-3. He has one assist in three games since, which include consecutive losses in Games 3 and 4.

"Whatever line I'm on, I'm going to bring the same energy, same speed, same work ethic and same compete [level]," Sheary said.

Center Nick Bonino and right wing Patric Hornqvist did not practice Wednesday. Bonino is day to day because of a lower-body injury. Hornqvist took a maintenance day, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. It was unclear at practice where Hornqvist would be in the lineup for Game 5.

Without Hornqvist, Phil Kessel returned to second-line right wing alongside center Evgeni Malkin. Scott Wilson joined them at left wing after being scratched in Game 4.

Malkin scored two goals in the first two games but didn't have a point in Games 3 and 4. He said he isn't worried.

"I know tomorrow we'll play so hard," Malkin said. "It's a good situation for us. It's 2-2. We're even. … We play tomorrow at home. It's a good chance to, again, lead the series."

Right wing Bryan Rust moved from the first line to the third, where he was with center Matt Cullen and left wing Chris Kunitz.

Left wing Carl Hagelin was on the fourth line with center Carter Rowney and right wing Josh Archibald, who replaced Wilson in Game 5.

Video: Are the Penguins fortunate to be tied?

Hagelin has one goal in 13 playoff games. He missed 22 games because of a lower-body injury that sidelined him until Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals. He was scratched in the first two games of the Cup Final.

"It's fun to be back," Hagelin said. "It's one of those things, you don't play games so mentally you don't get drained really. You're able to do some good stuff in the gym and some good stuff on the ice when you're not playing games."

The Penguins have scored one goal in each of their past two games after starting the Final with nine goals in two consecutive wins.

While Pittsburgh's defense has struggled, by surrendering nine combined goals in two straight losses, it likely won't receive a similar overhaul. The defense pairs were kept intact Wednesday.

Defenseman Olli Maatta said the Penguins could improve without any changes.

"We had our chances in Game 4," he said. "But we know we can still be better."

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