There aren’t many teams in the National Hockey League which can match the depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins. That depth will be tested again in Game 5 as head coach Dan Bylsma must once again tap into his vast array of resources.
Forward Tyler Kennedy
, who played just 3:37 minutes in Game 4 before exiting due to a lower body injury, will miss Thursday night’s contest after sitting out the morning skate. Ruslan Fedotenko, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with a reputation for producing during the postseason, appears most likely to take Kennedy’s place.
“I am very excited,” Fedotenko said. “It’s tough to watch the team play. You want to help and contribute. It’s unfortunate that we have injuries but it’s a chance for me to get back.”
Bylsma said Fedotenko will be slotted into Kennedy’s spot alongside Jordan Staal
and Matt Cooke
on the Penguins’ third line. Fedotenko’s ability as a competent two-way player makes him a great fit for the role.
“I see him being very similar to TK with a little more physical presence, but he’s also a shooter and a guy who is going to be responsible defensively and a guy who can fight in the offensive zone,” Bylsma said. “Last year, Fedotenko did play on a line with Staal for nine games and was effective on that unit, as well. We’ll look for more of the same in that situation much like TK provides.”
Even though Fedotenko is a veteran of 78 career postseason contests, Fedotenko admitted he will still experience some nerves at the outset tonight.
“Maybe a little bit but I feel like you have an opportunity,” he said. “It’s been a week and a half or so but I just have to stick to the basics, work hard, contribute and stick to the system.”
Fedotenko hasn’t played since Game 1 of the series, when he went scoreless while tying for the team lead with five hits. While he acknowledged on several occasions this morning that it was tough watching from the press box the previous three games, Fedotenko tried to make the most of his experience.
“Maybe just sitting and evaluating your game to see what you can do better to be a better player,” Fedotenko said.
While it’s always good to have players buying into and understanding the team concept, especially at this critical juncture in the season, the fact remains Fedotenko is a proven playoff commodity and a guy they will look for to pick up clutch goals when the Penguins need them the most, something Fedotenko has excelled at in the past.
Last season Fedotenko built upon his impressive postseason resume by ranking among the team leaders with seven goals and 14 points as he helped the Penguins pick up the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
When Fedotenko played for the Tampa Bay Lightning back in the 2004 postseason, the Kiev, Ukraine native notched 12 goals, including both Lightning tallies during a Cup-clinching 2-1 Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames.
“He has been a proven playoff performer that is for sure,” Cooke said. “He had a great playoff last year. I think he has done a great job staying conditioned and being ready to jump in for TK tonight.”