The Penguins cancelled practiced on Monday in Ottawa, not surprising considering the team played a marathon, double-overtime contest in Game 3 Sunday night. The players were fatigued from the game and bruised from the postseason in general. With two days off between Games 3 and 4, Monday was a perfect day for a day off.
Penguins forward Joe Vitale has provided both a speed and physical boost since being inserted into the Penguins’ lineup in Game 5 against the NY Islanders.
Head coach Dan Bylsma even called him “a difference maker” since entering the team’s lineup with his speed and tenacity.
But Vitale was the only player absent from Pittsburgh’s Sunday morning skate and did not play in Game 3.
Bylsma said it was “likely,” but not certain Vitale would practice with the team on Tuesday. But per team policy in the playoffs, he would not discuss injuries or the lineup for Game 4.
With Vitale out for Game 3, the team turned to Tanner Glass to take his place.
Another option for the Penguins could be inserting Jussi Jokinen into the mix. Since being acquired from Carolina at the NHL trade deadline, Jokinen posted 11 points (7G-4A) and a game-deciding shootout goal in 10 contests with Pittsburgh. He added two assists in four postseason games.
“He’s a guy who’s played big games,” Bylsma said. “He’s a skilled guy that’s done good things for us in the games he’s played.”
One area the Penguins really have missed Jokinen has been in the faceoff circle – where he has won 64.9 percent of his draws in the playoffs. And particularly, Pittsburgh misses his effectiveness in the left circle.
“The left faceoff dot is something we haven’t been good at in this series,” Bylsma said. “Brandon Sutter was pretty exceptional in the right dot so we used him exclusively there a lot. We weren’t able to find someone in the left dot that is good in those. Jussi has been outstanding on faceoffs, especially on the left side.”
Since it’s the Penguins’ policy not to discuss injuries or lineup, it isn’t known why Jokinen hasn’t played yet in the second-round series against the Senators. One reporter asked if Jokinen is hurt.
Bylsma’s didn’t indicate either way whether Jokinen is hurt or whether he could play in Game 4.
Bylsma said: “It’s tough not having him in there with our lineup. We haven’t decided on our lineup for Game 4 yet.”