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Penguins' Rust will be game-time decision

Pittsburgh forward questionable for Game 2 of Cup Final; Sharks forward Nieto to return

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

Game 2: SHARKS at PENGUINS

Stanley Cup Final

Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 1-0

TV: 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Penguins rookie forward Bryan Rust will be a game-time decision for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday.

Rust (upper body) participated in an optional morning skate Wednesday and remained on the ice well after most of his teammates left. He said he is feeling better, but did not say whether he will play Game 2.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Rust would be a game-time decision, one day after he joined Rust for light skating following an optional practice Tuesday. Rust did not take part in that practice.

"I'm just seeing how things go," Rust said. "I'm just going to take it through the afternoon and see how I feel come game time."

After Sharks forward Patrick Marleau hit him high 4:47 into the third period of the Penguins' 3-2 Game 1 win Monday, Rust exited the game. He returned several minutes later, took one shift and left again.

If Rust is unable to play, forward Eric Fehr could move to right wing alongside center Evgeni Malkin and left wing Chris Kunitz, where Fehr played throughout much of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before Rust replaced him midway through Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Rust has scored four goals in his past three games, including the first goal in Game 1 and each of Pittsburgh's goals in its 2-1 Game 7 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. After scoring five goals in his first 55 regular-season games across two seasons, he has scored six in the playoffs, the most by a rookie in Penguins history.

"I think what we see with [Rust] is just his skating ability, his speed, his tenacity on the puck, his compete level and he has a sneaky shot," Sullivan said. "He can shoot the puck. When you think of those attributes, I think it all adds up to someone who has the potential to score."

Fehr, who recently has played fourth-line right wing, has three points and two goals in 18 playoff games. He was absent from Pittsburgh's optional skate Wednesday.

Rust's potential absence could make room for forward Beau Bennett to re-enter the lineup. Bennett has played once this postseason, in place of left wing Conor Sheary next to center Sidney Crosby in Game 5 of the conference final.

Bennett has two goals and four assists in 21 playoff games.

Sharks forward Matt Nieto will return after last playing May 9 because of an upper-body injury. He has one goal and two assists in 11 playoff games.

"For me, it's about using my speed, winning pucks behind their [defense], forechecking, creating turnovers and ultimately, we want to play in their zone as much as we can," Nieto said. "I kind of went through a similar situation in the L.A. series [in the Western Conference First Round against the Los Angeles Kings]. I was out a month before that and I showed up and felt better than I thought I would.

"It's kind of hard to prepare for a game, but at this stage of the playoffs and it being the Stanley Cup Final, adrenaline kind of takes over."

San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said the Sharks had not made any decisions on line combinations.

Forward Dainius Zubrus said he would not play, which indicates Nieto would replace him on the fourth line.

"[Nieto] brings us speed," DeBoer said. "He was a big part of our team all year. When he went down, there were some great contributions from guys to fill that hole, but he brings some things that are unique to his skill set."

Here are the projected lineups:

SHARKS

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joonas Donskoi

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Joel Ward

Matt Nieto - Nick Spaling - Tommy Wingels

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - Roman Polak

Martin Jones

James Reimer

Injured: None

Scratched: Dainius Zubrus, Micheal Haley, Dylan DeMelo, Matt Tennyson

PENGUINS

Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust

Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Eric Fehr

Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Ben Lovejoy

Ian Cole - Justin Schultz

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injured: Kevin Porter (ankle surgery), Scott Wilson (lower body), Trevor Daley (ankle)

Scratched: Jeff Zatkoff, Derrick Pouliot, Oskar Sundqvist, Beau Bennett, Kael Mouillierat, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Daniel Sprong, Tim Erixon, Josh Archibald, Dominik Simon, Steve Oleksy, Tristan Jarry

Status report: Crosby and Letang were each absent from Pittsburgh's optional skate. Crosby was one of two regulars, joining Fehr, to take part in the Penguins' optional practice Tuesday … San Jose also held an optional morning skate. Most of the Sharks' regulars were present.

Who's hot: Crosby has three goals and three assists in his past eight games. He assisted Sheary's goal Monday that gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead with 6:12 to play in the first period … Burns has scored at least one point in 13 of 19 playoff games, and his 22 points (five goals, 16 assists) are tied with Pavelski and behind Couture for second among all scorers in the postseason. Burns assisted on each of San Jose's two goals Monday.

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