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Pens hope to bounce back against Wild

by Brian Compton /
PENGUINS (3-2-2) at WILD (2-1-2)


Season Series: This is the lone meetings between the teams. They last faced each other on Jan. 8, when Minnesota cruised to a 4-0 victory at the Consol Energy Center.

Big Story: The Penguins continue to play without their two best players, as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been out of the lineup. Crosby hasn't played since January due to a concussion (he has been cleared for contact and is skating in Pittsburgh), while Malkin is nursing a knee injury. Malkin did not accompany the Pens on their two-game road trip, which began Monday night with a 2-1 loss at Winnipeg.

"Sid's continuing his progress and his rehab," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's been cleared for contact a number of days ago and he's doing that back in Pittsburgh right now. Hopefully he can continue on with progress and at some point in time (return to game action). There's no time table now for a return to game action. Hopefully we can see that happen down the road."

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh managed to record 29 shots on goal Monday night despite the absences of Crosby and Malkin, but Ondrej Pavelec denied 28 of them as the Pens suffered a 2-1 loss to the Jets at a raucous MTS Centre. Zbynek Michalek had the lone goal for Pittsburgh, which has suffered back-to-back regulation losses.

"The Jets won puck battles and came at us in a lot of different ways," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. "That is where they had the upper hand. We have adjusted practice to how many games we've played and some of the travel we've endured. We've adjusted to get the optimal rest vs. work ratio that we need. In terms of being fresh mentally, we are six games into the season. Not being there mentally is not something we need to worry about. But sometimes the mind follows the physicality aspect of the game."

Wild: The bad news is Minnesota has won only two of its first five games. The good news is the Wild keep finding ways to get points in the standings.

Minnesota earned at least a point for the fourth time this season as Josh Harding made 38 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss at Detroit on Saturday night. The Wild were outshot 41-14 and were denied a second point when Johan Franzen found the back of the net at 4:11 of the extra session.

It was Harding's first start since March 26, 2010. He left that game -- also at Detroit -- with a hip/labrum injury to end his season. But things got worse six months later when he tore two ligaments in a preseason game that forced him to miss all of last season.

"Josh was outstanding tonight. He got us a point. We are really disappointed that we couldn't get a second point for him," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "He got us to overtime, gave us a chance to get a second one. ... He was great tonight."

Who's Hot: Guilliame Latendresse leads the Wild with 4 points, all assists. Matt Cullen leads the club with 3 goals.

Injury Report: Besides Crosby and Malkin, the Pens will also likely be without defenseman Brooks Orpik (hernia) and forward Dustin Jeffrey (ACL). … Minnesota will be without defenseman Mike Lundin and forward Cody Almond, who have back issues.

Stat Pack: All three of Cullen's goals for Minnesota have come at even strength. He scored three even-strength goals in 78 games last season.

Puck Drop: "We know they come out strong, and they did. Not just because of that first goal, but because they kept putting a lot of pressure on us in the first half of the first period. It seemed like it took us a long time to get into the game." -- Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday's 2-1 loss at Winnipeg

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