PITTSBURGH -- Acknowledging there is a benefit to seeing game action before the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma stressed that none of his injured players will be rushed back and that all have shown an ability to seamlessly rejoin the lineup after long layoffs.
NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), reigning 40-goal scorer James Neal (concussion), 25-minute-per-game defenseman Paul Martin (hand) and 2011-12 Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) each have missed time. All but Malkin have been ruled out for Wednesday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens. Malkin was termed a game-time decision by Bylsma but his role in recent practices and Wednesday's morning skate suggests he is unlikely to play.
With six games and exactly two weeks between now and the projected first game of the opening round of the playoffs at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said there won't be any rash decisions made concerning Malkin, Crosby, Neal or Martin.
"We're talking about players who are good hockey players and can get in games and be factors in games, and they're going to be that in their first game, whenever that is," Bylsma said. "I feel comfortable they're going to be able to get in their spots and play and be factors."
Bylsma cited defenseman Kris Letang, who three times this season missed multiple games because of injury and returned to play 27:33, 24:20 and 23:31 in his first game back, respectively.
"I think that's what you'll see from those [currently injured] players getting back in," Bylsma said. "Having said that, there's going to be no thought about rushing a player back to get an opportunity to play that game before the playoffs.
"It's going to be in due time and after they get the appropriate amount of recovery and rehab for players in different situations. And when they get back in there, we're going to be comfortable that they'll get back in and contribute."
The previous time Pittsburgh played Montreal, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury did not return after the second intermission because of a neck injury sustained when Canadiens forward Brian Gionta collided with him in the crease. Fleury, who will start Wednesday, is 8-1-0 with a 1.59 goals-against average in his past nine starts.
If Malkin does not play, Bylsma said he will continue to stick with Pascal Dupuis centering the second line. Before this past week, Dupuis very rarely played center since being acquired by Pittsburgh five years ago.
Here is Wednesday's projected lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Chris Kunitz – Jussi Jokinen – Jarome Iginla
Brenden Morrow – Pascal Dupuis – Beau Bennett
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale- Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik – Kris Letang
Douglas Murray – Matt Niskanen
Deryk Engelland – Mark Eaton
Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Dustin Jeffrey
Injured: Sidney Crosby (jaw), Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Paul Martin (hand), James Neal (concussion)