Forwards Evgeni Malkin (foot), Chris Conner (foot) and Joe Vitale (mid-body) all skated prior to the Penguins’ practice at Southpointe on Friday, head coach Dan Bylsma said.
Bylsma also added that he doesn’t plan on rushing Malkin, who has been out since suffering the injury March 23 vs. St. Louis, back to the lineup.
“I think really what’s more important is the health of the player than it is to play a game ... The health of the player is the most important thing,” Bylsma said. “If that’s rest to get before the playoffs, that will be it. If we have the opportunity to get him back in a game, we’ll take it, but we’re not going to rush him back just to get that 60 minutes of hockey.”
Chris Kunitz left the ice in the middle of practice with an “excused absence”, which was not injury related according to Bylsma, but participated in line rushes before leaving. Here is what lines looked like today...
The other five defensemen (Letang, Scuderi, Engelland, Bortuzzo and Despres) rotated.
With no morning skate before the 3 p.m. game against Philadelphia tomorrow, the Penguins took time today to address their game against the Flyers, who are a potential first-round matchup for the Penguins in the playoffs.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen said he expects the Flyers, who are currently the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division, to come charging in and play a strong game.
“Their seed in the playoffs is still up in the air, so they’re going to probably come pretty hard,” Niskanen said. “That’s no secret. After a bad start in the first month of the season they’ve played much better and they’ve played really hard the rest of the year, I don’t expect anything other than that from them.”
Bylsma said it’s going to be an intense game, even if it isn’t a playoff game.
“I expect it to be a Philly-Pittsburgh game regardless of the circumstances of the schedule, not the game it is and the positions we’re both in or not in in the playoff picture,” Bylsma explained. “I expect it has that flavor regardless of those situations.”
Bylsma then added, “We’re going to try to win the game tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
As usal at practice, the Penguins took time today to work on the power play and penalty kill. Kunitz skated off with his excused absence right before, so here is what the setups looked like...
PP1: Martin, Niskanen up top, Crosby, Jokinen/Stempniak, Neal
PK1: Orpik, Glass, Adams, Engelland/Despres
PP2: Letang, Maatta up top, Sutter, Jokinen/Stempniak, Bennett
PK2: Gibbons, Bortuzzo, Megna, Scuderi