Defenseman Kris Letang and center Marcel Goc were back at team practice Friday at Southpointe and are both expected to be in the lineup Saturday night when the Penguins play in Montreal.
“Both look fine and I expect both will play (Saturday),” head coach Mike Johnston said.
Goc has been ill for the past week and missed Pittsburgh’s Wednesday night game against Boston. But he is completely over the illness and ready to return.
“I feel good today and should be fine,” Goc said. “For a few days I wasn’t feeling well so they kept me off the ice.
“I didn’t have much energy. I decided not to waste any and make it worse. Just wait for it to go away and I feel better again.”
Luckily for Goc his illness was not mumps related, which has effected some of his teammates.
“No, no, no mumps,” Goc laughed. “I’m in the clear. I had it when I was a little kid.”
Letang has been battling through many bumps and bruises. Against the Bruins he was hit by two shots. Though he was in pain, he did not miss a shift, and finished the game with a game-high 27:28 minutes of ice time.
Letang was given a maintenance day off on Thursday.
Blueliner Olli Maatta worked out prior to team practice, but is still “a ways away” according to Johnston.
“We’ll see how he progresses,” Johnston said. “We thought it would be a month or five weeks. It seems to be slowing down. We’ll see where their evaluation is over the next 10 days or so.”
CANADIENS GRUDGE MATCH The Pens will play Montreal one week after losing 4-1 to the Habs in Pittsburgh. This time the matchup will take place in Quebec, where the Pens were victorious 4-0 on Nov. 18.
“They’re a top team in the league,” Johnston said. “We just played them in our building and we lost. We didn’t feel like we had a good game. So it’s really important how we respond in Montreal. They’ve got their matchup and control of that. We have to be able to play on the road and respond from the game we had here last week.”
The key to the game could be scoring the first goal. Montreal was a perfect 16-0 when striking first until losing Tuesday to Tampa Bay.
“Hopefully, get the first one and not allow them to sit back,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “If you can get them out of their comfort zone a bit it always helps. Even if we don’t get the first one there is a lot of game left. You want to have that mentality that you want to get a lot of shots to the net and try to gain momentum right away.
“The first 10 minutes will be big, especially in that building, a lot of energy and they feed off their crowd a lot. They’re coming off a tough game too so they’ll be pretty motivated. We need to make sure we start well.”