Interim head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed at Pittsburgh’s Thursday morning skate that defenseman Philippe Boucher and goaltender Mathieu Garon will both see game action when the Penguins battle the New York Islanders at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.
Bylsma also noted that forward Maxime Talbot will be given the day off to rest. Boucher, who will play in his first game since Jan. 30 after having foot surgery, will skate in place of defenseman Hal Gill.
“It’s been a while,” Boucher said. “You can prepare in practice or whatever but nothing compares to playing in a game so it will be good for me to get in and see where I am at and see where the injury is. I’ve been skating great in practice and hopefully I can feel pretty good in the game.”
“(We wanted) to give him a chance to get in there and get his feet wet, get back to his timing and game shape and get used to our system,” Bylsma said. “This is a better situation for him to get back to our team and our system and to get game acclimated.”
Boucher hasn’t played in the Penguins’ new aggressive system. There will be some adjustments but Bylsma expects Boucher to make a smooth transition.
“He’s an older guy and I think you’re more apt to jump back in as an older guy, to keep your game simple and not try to do too much,” Bylsma said. “But we’re looking for him to play a substantial amount of minutes tonight in the game. We’re not going to give him just seven minutes to test him out. We want him to play.
“We’re playing him in a lot of different situations to get used to how we play as a team. We’ve spent a lot of time on the ice going over our system and (getting him) acclimated to how we want to play. But this is a game test and we needed him to get some time on that ice to make sure that he is ready to go if need be.”
Boucher isn’t worried about his foot, which he feels has fully healed. Boucher wants to get used to game action and regain his timing with his teammates.
“The foot is good in practice,” Boucher said. “It’s just the pushing off and the battling I haven’t done but I’m not too worried about the foot. Obviously, it’s the timing and the conditioning that you want to see where you are at, that’s the main thing. Hopefully, I pass the test tonight.”
Garon will make his first start in 10 games and only his second start in the team’s last 30 games.
“I think it is going to be good for me to play before the playoffs,” Garon said. “I know it’s been a while and I’ve been in this situation before. I know it’s not going to be easy getting in the game but I feel good. I practice hard and I can’t wait to play.”
“Going into the playoffs you want every player to have his game and to be sharp,” Bylsma said. “This is a chance for (Garon) to get on his game and get sharp, see game pucks. That’s different than practice and that’s why he is going to go in and get his chance to get sharp.”
Garon will have to shake off some early rust. But the veteran has been in this situation before and knows what to expect from playing after a long layoff.
“It’s always a challenge, the first couple of shots,” Garon said. “Sometimes you get that first shot, it’s a good scoring chance and you make a good save, and it makes you feel better right away. But usually it takes you 10 minutes to start feeling better. As soon as you get a few shots I think that you start to feel good.”