Injured forwards Evgeni Malkin, Joe Vitale and Chris Conner all participated in the Penguins’ optional morning skate before their game against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.
Head coach Dan Bylsma said afterward that Malkin, Vitale and Conner “did not technically rejoin the team for practice. They just went out as a part of the optional morning skate.”
Bylsma added that he didn't have a definitive answer regarding those three players’ availability for Game 1 of Pittsburgh’s first-round matchup with Columbus.
Other notable participants in Sunday’s optional skate were winger Chuck Kobasew, who was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this morning, and defenseman Brooks Orpik, who did not play against Philadelphia on Saturday due to injury.
Kobasew said that his experience in Wilkes-Barre helped him rediscover his game. He had 10 goals and 11 points in 11 games played with the team.
“It was good to go down (to Wilkes-Barre) and play,” Kobasew said. “To play, get comfortable with my game again, it was a great opportunity down there. I played in all different situations, it was good to be a part of that team.”
Bylsma’s lineup for tonight is a game-time decision. Jeff Zatkoff will start in goal.
The 14 players who participated in the optional morning skate are listed below...
- Evgeni Malkin
- Joe Vitale
- Chris Conner
- Marc-Andre Fleury
- Brooks Orpik
- Jeff Zatkoff
- Robert Bortuzzo
- Deryk Engelland
- Brian Gibbons
- Jayson Megna
- Simon Despres
- Harry Zolnierczyk
- Taylor Pyatt
- Chuck Kobasew
Tonight marks the final regular-season game for the Penguins. They will take on the Ottawa Senators, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week, at 7:30 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center. But that doesn’t mean the Penguins can take them lightly.
Orpik said it best when he explained the matchup against Ottawa – the Senators may not be in the playoff picture, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come out flying.
“We’re playing against a pretty good hockey team that obviously didn’t have things go the way they wanted to this year, but there’s a lot of talent over there and a lot of pride there,” he said. “Knowing the guys there, they’re not just going to pack it in, especially with the coaching there too. He’s not going to let them do that.”
Jayson Megna voiced a similar sentiment, saying that just because things are set in stone for the playoffs – the Penguins learned they would be playing Columbus in the first round after the Blue Jackets beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 Saturday night to clinch the first wild-card spot – doesn’t mean the Penguins are going to let up.
“Obviously we’re going to play like any other game,” Megna said. “I think it’s a good chance and a good opportunity before the playoffs start to keep working on our systems and play playoff hockey the way that we need to to be successful.”