Game 1: RANGERS at PENGUINS
Eastern Conference First Round
TV: 8 p.m. ET; USA, MSG, ROOT, SN, TVA Sports 2
PITTSBURGH -- Two key pieces could rejoin the Pittsburgh Penguins for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury participated in the morning skate at Consol Energy Center after practicing the past two days. Just before the skate began, Fleury positioned himself in the crease usually reserved for the starter and was the first goalie off.
Fleury and goalie Jeff Zatkoff were the only two goalies present. Rookie Matthew Murray is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and Tristan Jarry was absent.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Pittsburgh's starting goalie would be a game-time decision. Fleury's status has highlighted the past few days leading to Game 1, but another valuable player could return sooner than expected.
Defenseman Olli Maatta, who was listed as week-to-week after sustaining an upper-body injury on March 24, has practiced the past two days before skating Wednesday. He skated alongside defensive partner Kris Letang on Tuesday and is also a game-time decision.
Maatta missed the Penguins' five-game loss to the Rangers in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a shoulder injury. After sustaining another injury that seemed to be potentially long-term, Maatta said he is relieved to be nearing a return, even if he doesn't play Wednesday.
"We've done a great job. Our training staff, I have to thank them a lot," Maatta said. "I'm happy I'm here now and I'm close to playing. It's exciting."
Maatta's production dipped over the month before his injury with one assist in his past 11 games. Sullivan said he is pleased with how Maatta has progressed during the past few weeks, which can be attributed to his work ethic.
"He's had a few strong practices. I think his conditioning level is terrific," Sullivan said. "He's an extremely hard worker. He's a very fit guy. He takes care of himself off of the ice. It's not a surprise to me that he progresses the way he progresses because he's such a hard worker and the way he takes care of himself."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he won't divulge his lineup until later Wednesday, but "if he was a betting man" he would expect the Rangers to play the same defensive pairings used during their practice Tuesday.
In that case, rookie defenseman Brady Skjei would make his playoffs debut after playing seven regular-season games. Skjei averaged 17:44 during those seven games.
Vigneault also expects Fleury to start.
"He's practiced the last couple of days and he was on the ice this morning," Vigneault said. "So, unless someone tells us otherwise, he's the goaltender that we're getting ready for tonight."
Here are the projected lineups:
J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Eric Staal - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Viktor Stalberg
Marc Staal - Dan Girardi
Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein
Brady Skjei - Dan Boyle
Injured: Ryan McDonagh (right hand)
Scratched: Oscar Lindberg, Dylan McIlrath
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Eric Fehr
Conor Sheary - Oskar Sundqvist - Tom Sestito
Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Trevor Daley
Ian Cole - Justin Schultz
Injured: Bryan Rust (lower body), Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Kevin Porter (ankle surgery), Scott Wilson (lower body), Beau Bennett (undisclosed), Matthew Murray (upper body)
Scratched: Tristan Jarry, Derrick Pouliot, Ben Lovejoy
Status report: Malkin, Bennett and Rust are each day-to-day. Malkin, who was expected to miss six-to-eight weeks from the time of his injury on March 11, began skating on his own before practice Monday. … McDonagh has not played since April 4 with a right hand injury, but is day-to-day and could return during the first round.
Who's hot: Crosby has scored at least one goal in his past three games and at least one point in 20 of his past 21, including eight straight. He finished the regular season leading the Penguins with 85 points and 36 goals. … Before being held without a point against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, Stepan had at least one point in eight of his previous nine games. Pittsburgh was the only team that held him without a point during that stretch in a 3-2 overtime win on March 27.