GAME DAY REPORT --Sam Kasan
LOCKER ROOM SOUNDPaul Martin Sidney Crosby --Sam Kasan
QUOTE 'EM--Michelle Crechiolo
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma has made it official: defenseman Paul Martin will return to the lineup tonight against Winnipeg after missing the last 18 games with a broken hand.
"The doctors said it was up to me. I said I'm ready," Martin told reporters following morning skate. "Felt good the last couple days practicing with the team. (Playing) is the next step."
Martin's injury happened in mid-February while playing for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. He returned to team practice on Monday and had been skating on his own with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar prior to that.
Martin, who said his 4-6 week projected recovery has been right on schedule, had been targeting a return tonight vs. the Jets so that he could play as many games as possible (six total) before the playoffs.
It's been a tough season injury-wise for Martin, as he has played just 10 games for the Penguins since Nov. 27. First he missed 23 games with a broken leg suffered Nov. 25 vs. Boston. He returned to play on Jan. 20 vs. Florida, about three weeks before the Olympics. And while it took him some time to find his game, he was back to his normal awesome self in Sochi - where he was set back to square one with the broken hand.
"I kind of wanted to push and get some games in before the playoffs to shake off some rust and get back into the timing and everything," he said.
"I think I want to make sure that these six games, I'm getting back into the shape I was as far as before the injuries and playing my game. It might take a couple games to get back into the flow of everything where just your instincts take over naturally, so it's good that we still have six games before the playoffs."
He's focused on the bigger picture, and so is Bylsma. While it looks like Martin will resume all of his usual roles and responsibilities right away (playing with D partner Brooks Orpik and skating on both the power play and penalty kill), the head coach certainly doesn't expect Martin to be at his normal self right away. It's not about tonight; it's about making sure he's ready for playoffs.
"I think you talk more about the six games than just particularly tonight," Bylsma said. "I don't think we're going to expect Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik at 100 percent as a pair. He's getting back in there, I think it's a good chance for him to play some games before the playoffs come around. I think it's just going to be good to get him back in there and get him back in there in a lot of different situations. Power play, penalty kill and have him playing out there for a number of games before the playoffs."--Michelle Crechiolo
PENS SKATE PICS
The Pens flock to center ice
Paul Martin told us a couple of times this week he was hoping to play tonight. We'll see what happens...
Former Jet Tanner Glass spent the 2011-12 season in Winnipeg
Fleury stacking the pads at morning skate. I wish the goalies would pose like this in the team photo.
Wonder what kind of welcome Sid will get tonight...
Glass crashes the net as Fleury tracks the play--Michelle Crechiolo and Sam Kasan
MORNING SKATE INFO
The Pens did not do their normal morning skate rushes, so no idea how the lineup will look tonight. However, defenseman Paul Martin did skate with the team's top power-play unit. We'll ask coach Bylsma about his status after practice. Either way, it's a great sign of his progress.
PP1: Martin, Niskanen on top. Crosby, Neal and Kunitz down low.
PP2: Jokinen, Maatta on top. Bennett, Stempniak and Sutter down low. --Sam Kasan
JETS SAID IT...--Sam Kasan
PENS-JETS PREVIEW--Sam Kasan
SCOUTING THE JETS --Sam Kasan
START THE DAY
Good morning hockey fans! The Pens are in Winnipeg, where the snow is falling, and will battle the Jets tonight at MTS Centre. Here are some game notes to get you ready for the action...
- The Penguins begin a three-game road trip (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at the MTS Centre.
- Pittsburgh is 3-1-1 in its last five road games.
- Since the Jets moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg for the beginning of the 2011-12 season, the Penguins have won six of the eight meetings between the teams.
- That number includes a 6-5 Penguins’ come-from-behind win on Jan. 5 at CONSOL Energy Center. In that contest, Winnipeg led 2-1 after one period and 5-4 after the second before Pittsburgh received third-period markers from Evgeni Malkin and Matt Niskanen to secure the victory.
- Pittsburgh has won 17 of its last 20 meetings against the Jets.
Stick tap: Pens PR--Sam Kasan