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Pens Report: 4.1.17

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The Pens practiced on Saturday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena following their 4-3 shootout win over the New York Rangers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Ron Hainsey were the only expected players missing from the session. While Hainsey was a maintenance day, head coach Mike Sullivan said that Kunitz is out with a lower-body injury.

"We don't know the specifics," Sullivan said. "He's being evaluated right now."

On Thursday, Sullivan said "yes" when asked if he thought Kris Letang would be back for playoffs. He reiterated that stance today.

"It holds true until someone tells us otherwise," Sullivan said of the defenseman, who has missed the last 18 games with an upper-body injury. "He's obviously been going through a rehab process and we're hopeful that he's making progress. Until the course of action changes otherwise, that's how we see it. We'll go from there, but obviously we feel like up to this point, he's made progress."

* The Pens got off the schneid yesterday evening, as their victory broke a four-game winless streak where they went 0-2-2 over that span.

Though the Pens twice gave up two-goal leads (2-0 and 3-1) and allowed the Rangers to force overtime, there were a lot of positives to take out of their performance and a lot they can build off of moving forward.

"I think it was important in the sense that it's nice to get in the win column and I think we did a lot of really good things," Sullivan said. "I thought our team played hard. We got contributions throughout our lineup. ... There was a lot to like about our game. I think it's important for us to build on that positive and try to work to get better in some of the other areas."

* There will be a lot on the line Sunday afternoon when the Pens host Carolina at 5 p.m.

The Hurricanes, who play tonight against Dallas, have earned at least a point in 13 straight games - going 9-0-4 over that span. They've climbed four points out of the second wild card position and are scratching and clawing to stay in the fight. Meanwhile, the Pens are battling for home-ice advantage and are within reach of the Presidents' Trophy.

"We know that we're playing some desperate teams right now and some teams that are fighting for their lives," defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. "We know that we're getting everyone's best games right now. Most of the teams that we're playing right now are in that playoff hunt, so it's starting to get down to that playoff time where teams are playing their best. All the games are tight and each win is meaningful."

* Before the puck drops,50 Golden Ticket winners - who have already been selected - are going to be introduced as a group on the ice. A Pens representative then will select one of 50 lottery balls at random to determine the winner of the grand prize - two season tickets for 20 years. It's the cumulation of a remarkable season-long activation between the Pens and their sponsors.

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