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Pens Roundup: Practice 12/30/13

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
NEWARK, New Jersey -- The Penguins held practice Monday afternoon at Prudential Center. They’ll battle the Devils in the same building at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

All of the team’s healthy players took part in practice, as well as injured center Evgeni Malkin (lower body). Malkin was cleared for contact in practice, but there is no timetable for his return to the lineup.
“Today a full day of practice for him. After practice was over he continued to work out,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s progressing back. He had some one-on-ones and battle drills, had the five-on-four power play at full speed. It’s another step for him, but no target yet.”
The team used the following workflow…
(Malkin, Zolnierczyk)
PP1: Jokinen/Malkin and Niskanen up top. Neal, Kunitz and Crosby down low.
PP2: Despres and Engelland up top. Gibbons, Sutter and Conner down low.
Jokinen started with the top PP unit on the point. Then Malkin took the second wave of work at the point.
Judging from the Pens' power-play units and defensive pairings, it appears that rookie Olli Maatta may be a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
Coach Bylsma hinted at such when asked about Maatta’s recent struggles on the ice.
“His play hasn’t been as strong in the last couple (of games),” Bylsma said. “When his play is good, he’s been worked with, coached and looked at video. That will certainly happen through this stretch as well. Now we’re progressing back to having a full set of defensemen with Simon sitting out last night.
“We’ll see with our six (defensemen) tomorrow.”
The Penguins and Devils have had night-and-day matchups when the teams play in Pittsburgh or New Jersey. Under Bylsma the Penguins are 9-5 against the Devils in Pittsburgh. But the Penguins are only 2-9 when the teams play in New Jersey.
“They’ve been pretty close games,” Crosby said. “The ones I remember the most, the last few, we’ve been right in it and then at the end it gets blown open. For the most part they’ve been pretty tight games, especially the first two periods. We haven’t found a way to get the lead or that first goal. We need to find a way to do that and make it easier on ourselves.”
Fleury was also a little baffled for an explanation.
“I don’t know, there’s just something about this place that we have to figure out and get some wins,” he said.
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