The Pens had an off-ice workout on Saturday afternoon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Here's what to takeaway from the day…
Forward Chris Kunitz (lower-body) and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (upper-body) skated today on their own.
"They're making significant progress," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "Their next step is to join us in practice. Those decisions are made on a daily basis depending on their response."
Carl Hagelin (lower-body) and Matt Murray (lower-body) rehabbed off the ice Saturday. Hagelin has skated at times on his own while Murray has yet to resume skating.
"Our hope is that there's a chance all of these guys will be available at some point in a fairly timely manner," Sullivan said. "We're reluctant to put any timeframes on it. When these guys get close we'll let you know."
The Pens know that they'll be playing either the Washington Capitals or Toronto Maple Leafs in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. What they don't know yet is which team it will be.
Not that the Pens have any preference.
"I'm not thinking about that. Pretty even teams. It's a tough series," center Evgeni Malkin said. "I'm focused on my team, getting everyone healthy. It doesn't matter if it's Washington or Toronto."
The Caps hold a 3-2 series lead following a 2-1 overtime victory on Friday night. But all five games have been decided by one goal, and four of the five games have gone into overtime. So it's been a very close series.
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin has watched the series, but hasn't been scouting either team too closely.
"It's been a fun series so far to watch. Both teams have been playing really well," he said. "They've been tight games. I'm not specifically watching to get insight on them. More watching as a fan right now."
The same goes for the Pens coaching staff. While they are keeping an eye on certain aspects of the games, the coaches are already deeply familiar with both clubs.
"There's so much familiarity with the teams based on the technology, the amount of times we play them, the video that's accessible to us. Vice versa. They're going to have the same video on their side," Sullivan said. "There aren't a lot of secrets. That's the nature of today's game. We watch the games and take notice. Maybe we watch them a little bit closer knowing that one of them is going to be our potential opponent."
One key factor to the Pens' 4-1 series victory over Columbus in the First Round was the efficiency of their power play.
Pittsburgh scored five man-advantage goals on 15 tries for a 33.3-percent conversion rate.
"Our power play was a difference-maker in the series," Sullivan said. "The guys on it did a terrific job."
Phil Kessel has two power-play goals, while Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist each chipped in one. While the top unit features so much talent, Malkin, who leads the NHL with 11 points in the postseason, said most of the plays are funneled through Kessel on the far circle.
"Phil has the puck. He's the (most important) guy on the power play," Malkin said. "He has great hands. He can shoot. He can pass to me or Sid. He's our guy. We give him the puck and we see what he does."
But the power play is a five-man unit. And all five guys were clicking on all facets of the game, from breakouts to entries to winning puck battles. All those little things led to increased zone time, which is critical to their success.
"I've always been a believer with this group that's the most important thing, the more zone time they get," Sullivan said. "They're instinctive players. They're going to see plays that are there and act on it. The decisions they made, their collective effort as a group, they were taking what the game gave them. As a result we had success."
ODDS AND ENDS
Malkin on Marc-Andre Fleury: "We like 'Flower' a lot. I've played with him for 10 years. He's a very good guy, good goalie. It was a tough year last year. He's still smiling. He's an amazing guy. We like Murray, too. He's had so many injuries this year. It's a tough season for him. I hope he's back. Both goalies are No. 1s. Flower played very well."
Malkin on Hornqvist: "Sometimes too much yelling (laughs). He brings energy. He loves to play, loves to be here. He's an amazing guy. He plays so well every game. He brings energy to the team in the locker room, between games. He's the first guy at the rink and last to leave. He's an amazing guy."
Dumoulin on playing with Ron Hainsey: "It's good for me and Ron to have some continuity playing together for a little bit and getting to know each other a little bit more. He's the type of guy that will make the simple, right play. He plays hard. It's fun to play with a guy like that. I always know what he's going to do. He's a good guy off the ice too. It's good to talk to him. He's played a lot in the league. It's been good playing with him."