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Penguins vs. Canadiens blog @NHL
Fleury pulled after fourth goal
05.12.2010 / 8:22 PM ET

Marc-Andre Fleury, who seemed calm and confident this morning, is going to watch the remainder of this Game 7.

Fleury was pulled by coach Dan Bylsma after Travis Moen's shorthanded goal at 5:14 of the second period gave the Montreal Canadiens a 4-0 lead. Fleury allowed four goals on 13 shots and headed off to the dressing room in disgust.

He was replaced by Brent Johnson.

-- Brian Compton

Roster juggling for Game 7
05.12.2010 /7:15 PM ET

Both teams made gambles with their lineups for Game 7.

For Montreal, Hal Gill, who suffered a leg laceration in Game 5 and did not play in Game 6, was ruled healthy enough to play, setting of a series of roster dominoes for the visitors. Montreal coach Jacques Martin decided to go with six defensemen, scratching Ryan O’Byrne. There was thought that the coach would dress seven D and deploy Marc-Andre Bergeron as a forward as insurance in case Gill was limited. Instead, Martin made Bergeron part of the six-man rotation and dressed forward Mathieu Darche as a forward in place of O’Byrne.

Andrei Markov, injured in Game 1, took part in Wednesday’s morning skate, but did not take the pre-game warm-up and was not really an option.

For the Penguins, coach Dan Bylsma rolled the dice and re-inserted Alexei Ponikarovsky back into the lineup after making him a healthy scratch for the past two games. Ponikarovsky replaces Mark Letestu.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Ponikarovsky back?
05.12.2010 / 5:37 PM ET

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma wouldn't touch the subject this morning, but there's a good chance Alexei Ponikarovsky will be re-inserted into the lineup tonight as the Pens face a do-or-die situation against the Montreal Canadiens.

Ponikarovsky, who had 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 16 games for the Pens after arriving in a trade with Toronto, has been a healthy scratch the past two contests. But with Pittsburgh facing a must-win situation tonight, Bylsma may need Ponikarovsky's 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame in front of Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak.

"I will be wearing a suit that's lucky," Bylsma said when the subject was brought up this morning. "You're talking about a hypothetical. I'm not going there."

If Ponikarovsky -- who was held without a shot on goal in Game 4 and only one in Game 3 -- is in the lineup, he knows what his role will be.

"We know that we have to get a lot of traffic," said Ponikarovsky, who has a goal and three assists in 10 postseason games. "Other than that, put more shots on him and basically not make any mistakes that can cost us. We have to keep them in their own end."

-- Brian Compton

Gill, Markov skate
05.12.2010 / 1:40 PM ET

Both Hal Gill and Andrei Markov skated with the Montreal Canadiens during their morning skate Wednesday at Mellon Arena. Whether or not one or both of them will return to the lineup remains to be seen.

"At this time in the series, those are decisions that are made at game time,"Montrealcoach Jacques Martin said. "We hope to have some people back. We'll have to wait and see after the warm-up."

Gill skated with his normal partner, Josh Gorges, during line rushes. He missed the end of Game 5 and all of Game 6 because of a cut on the back of his left leg. He and Gorges have been critical to the team's success in this postseason, helping to slow down Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

"If he is out there, obviously that is a hug lift for our team, especially for me," Gorges said. "I think we've worked really well together. If he is out there besides me for a game like this, it would be a lot of fun."

Markov hasn't played since a knee injury knocked him out of Game 1 of this series. The injury has been reported as serious by several media outlets, but he skated briefly before his teammates the morning of Game 6 and went through the full workout Wednesday. He was sporting a bulky knee brace, and he did stay out on the ice with the other guys who are typically scratches.

"It was nice to see those guys out with us. I don't what their status is for tonight, but it was good to have them out there. It was a lift for everybody."

If Gill plays, the Canadiens would likely dress seven defensemen with Ryan O'Byrne as the odd man out and Marc-Andre Bergeron as a fourth-line forward/No. 7 defenseman. If both Gill and Markov were able to play, Martin would have some decisions to make.

"I don't think we need eight defensemen," he said. "I think if we have healthy bodies we will dress the lineup that is going to win the hockey game."

-- Corey Masisak

Gill takes warm-ups but won't play
05.10.2010 / 7:10 PM ET

Hal Gill was one of the first Montreal Canadiens on the ice for warm-ups at Bell Centre, but he will not play in a critical Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gill skated briefly this morning and was on the ice for all of the pre-game warm-ups, but he has been listed as a scratch for tonight's game. Jaroslav Spacek is returning to the lineup for the first time since Game 3 of the Washington series. He's been out with an undisclosed injury.

Spacek is slated to start with Roman Hamrlik, so it appears that rookie PK Subban will slide into Gill's spot next to Josh Gorges. The Penguins will go with the same lineup as Game 5, so Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ruslan Fedotenko are out for a second straight contest.

-- Corey Masisak

Markov a possibility for Game 6?

05.08.2010 / 9:00 PM ET

Media reports coming out of Montreal suggest that the Canadiens are looking for a brace that would allow defenseman Andrei Markov to play, possibly in Monday's Game 6 at the Bell Centre.

The Candiens are not commenting on the reports, but it is interesting that Markov made the trip to Pittsburgh for Game 5. The team said Markov, as well as injured defenseman Paul Mara (shoulder), made the trip here to make sure they had access to the team's medical staff, which also made the trip.

Markov injured his left knee in the first period of Game 1 after falling awkwardly after a hit by Matt Cooke. The injury has been widely reported as a torn ACL, but the Canadiens have never officially confirmed that.

There is also rampant speculation that defenseman Jaroslav Spacek has been cleared to play by doctors, but that Martin does not want to alter a defense corps that has been very good in the past three games of the series. Spacek hasn't played in the series due to illness

--Shawn P. Roarke

Penguins look for more power on power play
05.08.2010 / 7:14 PM ET

Since a four-goal explosion in Game 1, Pittsburgh's power play has struggled, going just 2-for-11 in the past three games. That's not good enough for a team with as many skilled players as the Penguins possess.

"We're not OK with not getting goals," said forward Bill Guerin, who was set to return to action and duty on the first PP unit in Saturday's Game 5. "We want to score on every power play. You're not going to score on every power play, but you can't let the power play be a downer. It has to create momentum for your team. If you show frustration or you have bad body language, it is going to hurt your bench and we don't want to do that. We want to make sure it gets momentum for us and uplifts our team."

The Pens may well tinker with their power play in Game 5. Never shy about allowing Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby to move to the point in the course of a power play, coach Dan Bylsma may go one step further in Game 5 by stationing one of those players at the point in a four-forward, one-defenseman alignment.

In the morning skate, Malkin played the point with Sergei Gonchar, while Crosby, Guerin and Chris Kunitz played up front.

"I like forwards back on the points," Bylsma said Saturday morning. "I think they provide a different element and a different mentality than a defenseman. The skill level you are talking about in Malkin, he has the ability to different things back there than maybe an Alex Goligoski or a Kris Letang. So getting him up there with movement and motion, getting an 87 (Crosby) up there, also sometimes draws defensemen away from the net which we do like try to exploit and do. To see Evgeni up there or to see Sidney Crosby up there, it is not an uncomfortable situation for them. We practice them in those situations. There is not a deterrent because there is a defensive liability. That is not the case at all. It does provide a dangerous weapon on the power play."

In another sign of tinkering, Bylsma also scratched Ruslan Fedotenko and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Both had played in the first 10 games of the postseason. They were replaced by Guerin and Mike Rupp, both of whom returned to the lineup after missing Game 4. Guerin also missed Game 3.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Report: Markov travels with Habs
05.07.2010 / 6:34 PM ET

The Montreal Gazette is reporting that injured defenseman Andrei Markov is with the team here in Pittsburgh after taking the team charter earlier Friday from Montreal.

But it remains unlikely that Markov will follow in the footsteps of Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal, who made a surprise return to the Penguins' lineup Thursday night in Montreal's 3-2 win in Game 4. Staal suffered a lacerated tendon in his right foot after a Game 1 collision with Montreal defenseman PK Subban, but returned to action just six days after undergoing surgery.

Markov, Montreal's best all-around defenseman, was also injured in Game 1, hurting his left knee after falling awkwardly after absorbing a hit from Matt Cooke.

Several outlets have reported that Markov suffered an ACL injury, but the Canadiens have not confirmed those reports.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Staal back in Penguins lineup
05.06.2010 / 7:28 PM ET

Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal was back into the lineup just six days after undergoing surgery on his right foot to repair a sliced tendon.

Staal went through a full morning skate in the morning and received clearance to play upon reporting back to the Bell Centre for Thursday night's Game 4

Coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday morning that Staal would see limited time if he did play in Game 4. He will be spotted in specific situations and not take a regular third-line shift, nor see much time on the power play or penalty kill.

However, the Penguins were without Bill Guerin and Mike Rupp for Game 4.

Rupp, who is out for undisclosed reasons, took part in warmups but was scratched in favor of Mark Letestu, who made his playoff debut in Game 3.

"I won't change my policy, but he is not dealing with a hockey injury," Bylsma said. "Undisclosed, but I don't expect him tonight. It's still a possibility."

Guerin, who missed Game 3 with an undisclosed ailment, skated Thursday morning but was not ready for Game 4. He did not take part in the pre-game warm-ups, but said a return in Game 5 is a distinct possibility.

"I'm not going to say yes or not but I will tell you but that's my goal is to play Game 5," Guerin said. "Right now that's what I'm shooting for. I felt good on the ice this morning and had a lot of energy a lot of good jokes in the locker room this morning so I'm feeling better."

Good enough to not only take part in the morning skate but stay for an extended workout with the scratches.

"It was a surprise to get him out there on the ice this morning," Bylsma said. "He looked good. He doesn't look a day over 39. It was good to have him back out there."

--Shawn P. Roarke

No news on Guerin

05.05.2010 / 2:53 PM ET

The Pittsburgh Penguins are staying tight-lipped on the status of veteran forward Bill Guerin, who missed Game 3.

Guerin did not take part in Wednesday's optional skate at the Bell Centre and was not available after practice.

And Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma was not exactly forthcoming on what the future -- specifically Game 4 on Thursday -- holds for the veteran right wing.

"We're going to stay undisclosed on what Bill is dealing with, but we are still seeing on how his day goes today, whether he is going to be skating tomorrow morning," Bylsma said.

In Tuesday's 2-0 victory for Pittsburgh, Pascal Dupuis took the majority of his shifts in Guerin's top-line spot and played a strong game. He had two shots on net, including an empty-net goal, and threw two hits in a little more than 17 minutes of ice time.

Bylsma also was impressed with rookie Mark Letestu, who took Guerin's spot in the lineup and played third-line center between Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy.

Letestu had two shots and two hits in almost 13 minutes of ice time. He recorded Pittsburgh's first scoring chance of the game in a fitful start to Tuesday's game and was also pretty good in the faceoff circle.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Letestu makes his debut
05.05.2010 / 12:20 AM ET

Mark Letestu has played in 27 postseason games in the American Hockey League -- but it is pretty safe to assume that playing in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs game was a whole new experience for him.

Letestu was a late addition to the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series at Bell Centre. He replaced Bill Guerin, who did not participate in the morning skate or take the ice for pre-game warmups.

"Honestly I didn't know," Letestu said about getting the chance to make his NHL playoff debut. "I couldn't get everybody at home excited, but I told them there's a good chance. I'm sure I'm going to find my phone and find there's a bunch of text messages waiting for me."

Coach Dan Bylsma didn't have much to report on Guerin's injury after the game. He said it remains undisclosed and the veteran forward is day-to-day. The Penguins are already without center Jordan Staal, who left Game 1 and had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right foot.

Letestu logged 12:42 of ice time and registered two shots on net. He also had two hits and won 4 of 10 faceoffs while centering the third line between Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. He even earned a shift on the power play.

"That first period, especially the first five minutes, I've never heard something quite that loud," Letestu said. "It was something else. As the game went on we kind of settled down and started to play our game."

--Corey Masisak

Subban stars, Darche sits
05.05.2010 / 12:20 AM ET

Montreal rookie defenseman P.K. Subban is living up to the lofty expectations this province has for him, and he's earning more and more of his coach's trust. Subban, who had two regular-season games and four NHL playoff contests on his resume before Tuesday night, led all Montreal defenseman in ice time with 22:09, second only to Michael Cammalleri for the overall team lead.

Subban wasn't just playing a lot of minutes - he was on the ice in critical situations. He was on the ice for 3:06 of shorthanded time - two seconds less than partner Roman Hamrlik for most on the team.

With Andrei Markov and Jaroslav Spacek missing, Subban has worked his way onto Montreal's top power-play unit and he saw 3:22 of action with the extra-man - tied with Cammalleri and Brian Gionta for tops on the team.

"It is an opportunity," Subban said. "You hope for the best and you want to score there with five minutes left. We tried, but there were a couple of bounces that didn't go our way. We can't really worry about that now. We have to get ready for the next one, because it is an important one. There's a lot of hockey left."

At the other end of Montreal's playing time, fourth-line forward Mathieu Darche dressed for the game but did not see the ice. Coach Jacques Martin has been shortening his bench for the past four or five games dating back to the Washington series, but on this night he didn't tap Darche on the shoulder even once.

Fellow fourth-liner Glen Metropolit skated eight shifts for a total of 5:12, while Andrei Kostitsyn began the game as a fourth-liner but earned more playing time as the contest wore on with play that was more spirited than some of his recent performances.

--Corey Masisak

Guerin out, Letestu in for Game 3

05.04.2010 / 7:20 PM ET

Pittsburgh will be without first-line winger Bill Guerin for Game 3.

Guerin wasn't able to go Tuesday night after missing the morning skate with an undisclosed ailment. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma called it a “maintenance day” and said Guerin would be a game-time decision.

Rookie Mark Letestu took Guerin's place in the lineup. Guerin is listed as day-to-day.

The Penguins are already without third-line shutdown center Jordan Staal, who suffered a foot laceration in Game 1. The loss of Guerin, a first-line winger who is third on the team with 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists), forces Bylsma to make some serious lineup adjustments.

Letestu, making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, started the game as the third-line center between Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. That means that Pascal Dupuis, the third-line winger in Game 2, moved up to play wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, while Max Talbot played second-line wing.

Craig Adams, the fourth-line center, could also flip-flop lines with Letestu throughout the game.

Letestu spent the majority of this season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, scoring 55 points in 63 regular-season games and adding 3 points, all assists, in four playoff games.

A natural center, Letestu spent 10 games with Pittsburgh this season and managed to score one goal, his first in the NHL.

Tuesday morning, Letestu said even the possibility of getting in the lineup - against his favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens - has probably shattered his usual routing of an afternoon nap.

"Adrenaline will be pumping pretty good," said Letestu, who grew up in Saskatchewan cheering for Les Habitants because it was his father's favorite team.

"So, it's got a little extra meaning to it," he said. "Being in the building, it gives you chills; it's pretty cool. Hopefully, I don't get too amped up, kind of keep it under control and play a solid game."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Is Guerin out for Game 3?
05.04.2010 / 2:35 PM ET

Veteran Pittsburgh forward Bill Guerin did not skate in Tuesday's morning skate here at the Bell Centre.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma called it a "maintenance day" and said Guerin would be a game-time decision.

The Penguins are already without third-line checking center Jordan Staal, who suffered a foot laceration in Game 1, so the loss of Guerin, a first-line winger, would really force Bylsma to make some serious lineup adjustments.

It appears if Guerin can not go, Bylsma will dress Mark Letestu, a 25-year-old rookie making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut and place him as the third-line center between Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis. That means that Max Talbot, the third-line center in Game 2, would likely play top-line wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

Craig Adams, the fourth-line center, could also flip-flop lines with Letestu.

Letestu spent the majority of this season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, scoring 55 points in 63 regular-season games and adding 3 points, all assists, in four AHL playoff games.

A natural center, Letestu spent 10 games with Pittsburgh this season and managed to score one goal, his first NHL tally.

Tuesday morning, Letestu said even the possibility of getting in the lineup - against his favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens - has probably shattered his usual routing of an afternoon nap.

"Adrenaline will be pumping pretty good," said Letestu, who grew up in Saskatchewan cheering for Les Habitants because it was his father's favorite team.

"So, it's got a little extra meaning to it," he said. "Being in the building, it gives you chills; it's pretty cool. Hopefully, I don't get too amped up, kind of keep it under control and play a solid game."

-- Shawn P. Roarke

No update on Markov; Spacek out
05.04.2010 / 2:35 PM ET

Several media outlets, according TSN and Rogers, have reported that Montreal defenseman Andrei has suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. But, Montreal Jacques Martin has not acknowledged the severity of the injury.

"With Markov, he is going to have more tests and when we get the results, we'll give them to you, so it's the same indefinite," Martin said after Tuesday's morning skate at the BellCenter, which was the team's final preparation for Tuesday night's Game 3 against Pittsburgh.

The Canadiens have refused to say that Markov, their top defenseman, is done for the year since he went down in the first period of Game 1, falling awkwardly and painfully after a big hit on the forecheck by Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke.

Markov had 4 assists in the first-round upset of the Washington Capitals. In that series, he played a little more than 26 minutes a game and saw a lot of time on both the power play and the penalty kill.

It is the second major injury that Markov has suffered this season. In the Canadiens first regular-season game, Markov suffered a lacerated ankle and missed 35 contests.

For the third straight game, Montreal was hoping for some help on the blue line with the return of Jaroslav Spacek, who has been out for the past 4 games with what the team is calling a virus. But, Spacek will miss Game 3 after being ruled out again by Martin.

Spacek took part in the morning skate and looked good, but he is not ready to be re-inserted into the lineup quite yet.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Sid shows some emotion
05.03.2010 / 9:01 PM ET

The fact that Sidney Crosby lost his composure in Game 2 of this series -- breaking his stick in frustration against the goal post of the Montreal net after being boxed out in the chase for a loose puck -- was a big topic of conversation Monday.

The stick broke in two and Crosby angrily heaved the broken piece of lumber into the corner as he headed to the bench. Crosby only managed one shot Sunday and was on the ice for both of Montreal's even-strength goals. He has been held without a goal in two of the past three games.

Crosby was not available Monday before the team left for Montreal in preparation of Tuesday's Game 3 at the Bell Centre, but neither coach Dan Bylsma nor veteran forward Bill Guerin seemed all that concerned about the rare outburst from the team's captain.

"You know, it was a situation in a game where I think he felt like we could do more and there was more to be done out there," Bylsma said Monday morning. "Whether it's the power play or the referee or not cashing in on the chances that were there; there's some times that frustration is evident in everybody. That was maybe what we saw.

"But again, we've also talked about it as a group and as players, and we're well aware of it, and I think we readjusted as the game went on and Sid adjusted and got back to focus on playing as well."

Guerin, who was brought in to serve as a mentor to Crosby, had no problem seeing the young captain blow off some steam. He says his team understood it completely.

"I think a lot of what happens with Sid is that he is so emotional and he invests so much into the game and sometimes he lets it show," Guerin said. "I don't see a problem in that, but I think a lot of the times, people take it the wrong way. Inside our dressing room, we don't.

"We know what Sid is about. It's only for good reasons. We all handle things differently, too. Yesterday, he was letting his emotions show and personally, I don't have a problem with that."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Montreal's changes don't pay dividends

05.02.2010 / 2:20 PM ET

Montreal coach Jacques Martin gambled and reconfigured his fourth line for Game 2, trying to find a spark for his team.

He scratched veteran Glen Metropolit and added Mathieu Darche and Ben Maxwell into the mix. There were two spots open on the fourth line because Marc-Andre Bergeron, playing fourth-line forward for much of the postseason, was moved back onto the blue line -- his natural position -- in the wake of the injury to Andrei Markov in Game 1.

But the trio of Darche, Maxwell and Andrei Kostitsyn did not have a good night.

They were on the ice for all of seven seconds on their first shift before Matt Cooke scored the game's first goal just 4:38 into the contest.

That was the beginning of the end. In fact, none of the three players saw the ice in the game's final two periods as Martin shortened his bench to just three lines.

"Unfortunately, I did not use our fourth line very much tonight," said Martin, who opted for Maxwell over Metropolit to inject some speed into the lineup.

But Martin said Metropolit, who rushed back from a shoulder injury to be ready for the playoffs, will find his way back into the lineup at some point.

"I think Glen Metropolit has given us a lot," Martin said. "His attitude has been outstanding. He's a tremendous veteran and he is a player that has helped our hockey team. Glen is the ultimate team player.

"It's not easy to make those decisions sometimes, but I am sure he will have the opportunity to get back in."

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Walking wounded return for Pens

05.02.2010 / 2:20 PM ET

Defenseman Jordan Leopold, out for the past five games with a concussion, and bottom-six forward Tyler Kennedy are in the lineup for Pittsburgh for Game 2.

Leopold suffered his concussion in Game 2 of the first-round series against Ottawa after being leveled by Andy Sutton. Saturday, Leopold skated in his first full practice without restrictions -- shedding his non-contact jersey -- and showed coach Dan Bylsma enough to get back in the lineup. He takes the place of veteran Jay McKee, who was solid during his five-game run as an injury replacement.

Kennedy missed the past three games with a leg injury, but has been practicing for the past few days. He said Saturday that he could return to the lineup for Game 2 if he did not have any setbacks after Saturday’s practice.

Kennedy takes the roster spot of Jordan Staal, who is out after suffering a sliced tendon in his right foot during Game 1.

Shawn P. Roarke

Halak's in for Game 2
05.02.2010 / 12:42 PM ET

Montreal is sticking with Jaroslav Halak in goal for Game 2.

Word broke here at Mellon Arena about 12:15 that Jacques Martin had decided to stick with Halak, who was pulled after allowing 5 goals on the first 18 shots he faced in Friday’s Game 1. He was replaced in the middle of the third period by Carey Price, who only faced three shots, stopping them all.

Martin added to the intrigue on Saturday, saying he had not decided who his Game 2 starter would be until game day. At the time, he said he wanted to evaluate “the situation where we are at. Whoever I decide will play, I have full confidence he will give us a tremendous game tomorrow.”

In the end, that player proved to be Halak, who won three straight elimination games against Washington in Round 1, stopping 131 of 134 shots during that three-game stretch.

But going with Price wouldn’t have been without precedence. Halak struggled badly in Game 3 of the Washington series and was pulled in-game. Martin went with Price in Game 4 and he entered the third period with the game tied at 2-all before Alex Ovechkin scored a pretty goal to key a four-goal outburst, which featured two empty-net tallies.

Halak was back for Game 5 and the rest, as they say, is history.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Martin undecided on goalie for Game 2
05.01.2010 / 6:07 PM ET

It might be reading too much into the words of a regularly non-committal Jacques Martin, but it was shocking to hear the Montreal coach say Saturday afternoon that he would decide on his Game 2 goalie Sunday morning, just hours before faceoff at Mellon Arena

"I'll decide on my goalie tomorrow," Martin said when asked about the goalie situation in the wake of first-round star Jaroslav Halak being pulled in the third period of Friday’s 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh. Halak allowed five goals on the first 18 shots he faced Friday, just 48 hours removed from a heroic performance to help Montreal beat top-seeded Washington in a Game 7 on the road to advance to the second round.
Montreal had to win three-straight elimination games against Washington to advance and Halak was the main reason a No. 8 seed was able to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit against a top seed for the first time in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the final three games, he limited the high-powered Capitals’ offense, No. 1 in the League, to just three goals as he stopped 131 of the final 134 shots he faced.
But Halak wasn’t sharp Friday night in the face of a Pittsburgh attack that proved to be more patient and cunning than the Capitals in the first round. At times, he appeared flummoxed by Pittsburgh’s ability to change the point of attack, an element absent from Washington’s play in the offensive zone.
Still, four of the five goals he allowed Friday night did come on the power play and, after the game, Martin said he gave Halak the hook -- in favor of Carey Price -- in order to change the momentum.
Price, who also replaced Halak in Game 3 of the Washington series and started and finished Game 4 of that series, stopped the only 3 shots he faced Friday night.
So, what will Martin be mulling as he decides whether to stay with Halak or try to catch lightning in a bottle with the surprise insertion of Price into the lineup?
"Just evaluating the situation where we are at," Martin told "Whoever I decide will play, I have full confidence he will give us a tremendous game tomorrow."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Back to basics for Pens

05.01.2010 / 4:04 PM ET

While the injury to Montreal's Andrei Markov is likely the most tangible proof that Pittsburgh's aggressive forecheck is paying dividends, the Penguins think the long-term payoff will be even more pronounced.

Markov, Montreal's best all-around defenseman, was injured when he was plastered into the corner board by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, who was in aggressively on the forecheck and hit Markov cleanly as he released an outlet pass into the neutral zone.

There are reports that Markov suffered a season-ending left knee injury on the hit, although the Canadiens have not updated his status yet.

Pittsburgh was intent throughout Game 1 to get the puck in deep on the transition and then punish the Montreal defensemen as they turned their back to the play and went to retrieve the puck.

"When you a defenseman and you are going back every time and you know you are going to get hit -- even if it is not a big hit, but a rub out -- you know that it’s coming and you have to rush plays," fourth-line forward Mike Rupp, one of Pittsburgh's most enthusiastic forecheckers, told "I think it really puts the onus on the D to have some composure and be willing to take a hit. I think that is tough over the course of seven games."

So does Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, who wants to see Pittsburgh play even more behind Montreal's net and do an even better job of cycling the puck.

"We have made a focus on trying to get to the offensive zone," Bylsma said Saturday. "We want to play a cycling game below the goal line, use the back of the net and play in that offensive zone. Now it's without one of their best defensemen -- if not their best defenseman.

"It just emphasizes more how we want to play and need to play to get to our game. At times we did last game, but we still think we can do a better job of that. Whenever you lose a guy who plays 26 minutes back there and you count on him in a lot of situations, you need to now keep on that area of their game and keep playing at making their 'D' go back and making their whole team to play in the defensive zone."

Pittsburgh's willingness to get in on the forecheck was as pronounced Friday night as it has been in these playoffs. Not surprisingly, says Rupp, his team was rewarded for that diligence. He hopes the payoff is enough to convince the Penguins that this is the way to find success in the postseason.

"This is supposed to be our mindset all the time during the regular season, too," Rupp told "Our team is built on a lot of skill, but at the same time we have a lot of guys with speed who are physical players and our foundation should be our skating and our physical play.

"I thought we brought that during the Ottawa series and I thought it kind of wore on them. I thought we got to it at times last night against Montreal and did a better job 5-on-5 of putting pucks behind them. We're not saying that because we are playing the Montreal Canadiens we are going to do that more. We try to do that all the time and we plan on doing that some more, for sure."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Markov injury could be serious

05.01.2010 / 2:04 PM ET

According to several reports, Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov has returned to Montreal for treatment for a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of Game 1. The fear exists he could be done for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Montreal said Friday night that Markov would be re-evaluated Saturday. Montreal did not practice, but will have availability with the media later Saturday afternoon when an update on Markov’s status is expected.

Markov injured himself in the first period of Friday's 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena when Penguins forward Matt Cooke checked Markov heavily into the corner board as the Canadiens defenseman made an outlet pass toward center ice.

Markov went down awkwardly and appeared to hurt his left knee, although the team is saying only that is a lower-body injury. Markov needed help from the Montreal trainer getting off the ice and did not return.

The loss of Markov is a huge blow to Montreal's hopes of spring another upset in these playoffs.
The Russian is the team's best all-around defender and plays more than 26 minutes a game, including top-billing slots on both the power play and penalty kill, which was 32 of 33 against Washington in the first round, but allowed four power-play goals on four opportunities to Pittsburgh in Friday night's game.

Now the Montreal blue line is in disarray. The primary shutdown pair of Hal Gill and Josh Gorges remains, but things get dicey after that. Roman Hamrlik was benched in the first round. Marc-Andre Bergeron is in the midst of a crisis of confidence on the blue line and had been playing as a forward before the injury. Ryan O'Byrne began the playoffs as a healthy scratch and rookie P.K. Subban, the team's most noticeable defender in Game 1, has all of five NHL games -- three in the playoffs -- on his resume.

There was some thought that the Canadiens would receive some relief with the return of Jaroslav Spacek for Game 2, but that seems unlikely after Spacek skated with the Montreal scratches again Saturday as the regulars were giving the day off. Spacek, who has missed the past five games, did not speak to the media after the skate at Southpointe Iceoplex, suggesting that he has not fully recovered from a mystery virus that has sidelined him for the past three games.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Staal out for game

04.30.2010 / 9:00 PM ET

Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal left midway through the second period after a skate-to-skate collision with Montreal rookie defenseman P.K. Subban neat the Penguins' blue line. He appeared to be favoring his right foot or leg when he left the ice.

The Penguins list the injury as undisclosed and say he won't return.

--John Kreiser

Habs lose Markov
04.30.2010 / 8:27 PM ET

Montreal's hopes of winning Game 1 took a turn big hit Matt Cooke caught defenseman Andrei Markov with a solid hit in the corner of Markov's defensive zone late in the first period. Markov fell to the ice, writhing in pain as play went in the other direction. He was helped off the ice by a trainer and never really put much pressure on his right leg as he left the Mellon Arena ice. He was ruled out of the game with a lower-body injury and his status for Game 2 is up in the air.

Markov is the Habs' most reliable defenseman, averaging a team-high 26:26 in their first-round series against Washington. He is a key to both the Canadiens' power play and penalty kill, which was magnificent in killing 32 of 33 man-down situations in the first round.

Montreal dressed seven defensemen for Friday's game and were able to move Marc-Andre Bergeron into the rotation. He had been taking infrequent shifts as a fourth-line forward and also manned the point on the Canadiens' only power play of the first period.

The Habs were angered to see one of their best players lying prone on the ice and Scott Gomez went after Cooke at center ice before whistle ended the play. Gomez took an extra roughing penalty in the ensuing fracas to put Montreal shorthanded.

It didn't take long for Pittsburgh to make Montreal pay for the indiscretion as they scored their second power-play goal of the night to take a 2-0 lead. Jordan Staal used a sliding block attempt by Brian Gionta to partially screen Jaroslav Halak and beat him high to the glove side at 13:27.

Montreal's penalty kill looked a little hesitant without Markov -- Staal's goal was the second one allowed in as many attempts Friday night after the Canadiens killed 32 of 33 man-short situations against Washington. Pittsburgh added another power-play tally in the second minute of the second period to take a 3-0 lead. Kris Letang got that goal after Sidney Crosby created a turnover with some puck-hounding in the offensive zone.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Habs praise Crosby

04.30.2010 / 1:47 PM ET

It seems like Sidney Crosby saves his best for the Montreal Canadiens.

So the Canadiens know they are in for quite the challenge when they line up against the Crosby-led Penguins in Round 2, which begins Friday night at Mellon Arena. Crosby had an impressive 14 points in the six-game first-round ouster of Ottawa, but Montreal expects more from Sid the Kid.

"He's probably the best player in the world," said Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges, who along with partner Hal Gill will see an awful lot of Crosby in this series. "The thing with him is he'll pass, he'll shoot, he'll drive, he'll chip pucks. Whatever you give him, he'll take.

"We have our work cut out for us and we know it will take a five-man unit. It can't be one guy or one matchup. We're going to have to work and it is not going to be easy. We have to be in his face as much as we can."

Montreal center Mike Cammalleri says he is not surprised Crosby is so good against the Canadiens. Everyone gets up for games against Montreal because of the attention they get throughout Canada -- especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Plus, Crosby grew up in Nova Scotia cheering for the Habs, the dominant NHL team in the Maritimes and the team that drafted his father, Troy, as a goalie way back in 1984.

"I think that happens a lot with Montreal, especially with a guy like Sid, who has maybe an emotional attachment to the team, growing up watching them and being an Eastern Canada kid. It all adds to it," Cammalleri said. "I used to play in L.A. and anytime you would come play in any Canadian cities, you always get up for it. You know all eyes are on you and it reminds you of your childhood because Canada is so hockey-centric. I would imagine that's what it is like for him."

But Cammalleri doesn't see a fired-up Sid as a bad thing for the Canadiens or their fans. Instead, he says it should be seen as an honor.

I think (Crosby) is pretty popular in Montreal, too -- not the next couple of weeks, though," he said. "It's probably special for him, for the Habs fans and for us to play against him. He's a special player. He brings a lot of the things you really respect about hockey in his compete level and his work in both ends.

"There's no secret to him. I don't think you're going to shut him down, but we can work hard to contain him the best we can and try to find a way to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, and not just Sidney."

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Spacek out for Game 1

04.30.2010 / 1:01 PM ET

Montreal will once again be without the services of defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who is battling a mysterious virus. Spacek last played in Game 3 of the Washington series

Spacek skated in Friday’s morning skate, but stayed on late with the team’s scratches. As he finished the extra skating, Montreal coach Jacques Martin was officially ruling Spacek out of Game 1. Asked if Spacek would be a game-time decision, Martin said, “No, he’s out.”

That means that Montreal will likely go with the seven-defenseman alignment it used throughout much of the series. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron will see the odd shift as a fourth-line forward and will man the point on the power play, while rookie P.K. Subban takes a regular turn in the defensemen rotation.

Subban played the final two games against Washington and played with unbridled confidence. He notched an assist in Game 6, his first playoff game.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Kunitz a go for Game 1
04.30.2010 / 12:04 PM ET

Although coach Dan Bylsma suggested Thursday morning that Chris Kunitz would be a game-time decision because of an unspecified injury, Kunitz pronounced himself fit and ready to go for Friday night's Game 1 against Montreal.

Kunitz, a top-line winger along with Bill Guerin, played in all six games against Ottawa in the first round and has used the six days off to rest and recuperate for a variety of dings.

Asked if he is a go for Game 1, he said: "I think so. I was fortunate to have some days in between games, so I should be ready to go."

The news is not good for Pittsburgh's other walking wounded.

Tyler Kennedy, out with a leg injury, is not playing Friday night. Despite skating in Thursday's practice and Friday's morning skate, he will not take part in the pre-game warm-ups.

Jordan Leopold, who suffered a concussion in Game 2 of the Ottawa series, is also likely out. He skated with a no-contact jersey in Thursday's practice and Bylsma has said Leopold would not play until he went through a practice without limitations.

Leopold says that he is no longer suffering from post-concussion symptoms, but does need to get his conditioning back.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

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