The Pens will host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday evening. The series is tied at 2-2 following the Bolts’ 4-3 victory at Amalie Arena on Friday night.
The Pens did not practice on Saturday. The team flew back to Pittsburgh in the late morning. The team held media availability at the airport prior to departing.
DALEY UPDATE Defenseman Trevor Daley suffered a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 4 after colliding into the end boards with Tampa’s Ryan Callahan. He left the game and did not return.
“He’s going to be evaluated when we go back to Pittsburgh today,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Daley, who left the game on crutches, has become an integral part of the Pens’ blue line, and his possible absence will hurt the team.
“He’s a tough guy to replace,” Sullivan said. “He’s a real good player. He’s really helped change our team since he’s come to join our team. He’s got great offensive instincts. He helps us get out of our end zone.
“He’s not an easy guy to replace, but we’ve dealt with that all year. We’ve had a lot of key guys go down for long stretches of time and this group is resilient, they find ways to have success and someone else steps up.”
If Daley is unavailable to play in Game 5, the team will likely turn to either Olli Maatta or Derrick Pouliot to take his spot. Maatta had been playing regular minutes for the club before becoming a healthy scratch in the past three games.
“Olli is a real good player,” Sullivan said. “He’s played in key situations for us all year. He’s been a top-4 defenseman for us for most of the year. We believe in him and have a lot of confidence in him.”
MURRAY OR FLEURY? The Pens coaching staff hasn’t decided yet which goaltender will start in Game 5 against the Bolts.
“That’ll be a decision we make (Sunday),” Sullivan said.
Rookie netminder Matt Murray has shouldered the duties between the pipes during the Pens’ run to the conference finals. But Marc-Andre Fleury is a former Stanley Cup champion and two-time NHL All-Star.
Fleury saw his first game action in nearly two months in Game 4 in a relief appearance in the third period. Fleury, who last played on March 31, stopped all seven shots against.
“It was an opportunity for him to get some game action. That’s one of the reasons we decided to put him in (for the third period),” Sullivan said. “Marc’s been a big part of this team all year. He’s really helped this team get to the position that its at with the way he’s played all season.”
While Fleury was recovering from a late-season concussion, Murray stepped in to lead the Pens from the crease. He won the first three NHL playoff games of his career to eliminate the New York Rangers in Round One. Murray followed that up by topping the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and besting likely Vezina Trophy-winner Braden Holtby in six games.
Regardless of whom the Pens choose it’s a good decision to have.
“We feel like we have three quality goaltenders,” Sullivan said, including netmidner Jeff Zatkoff. “We have three guys that have helped us win all year. Marc’s a real good goalie. Matt’s played extremely well for us, making timely saves. It’s a nice problem to have when you have that many quality goaltenders to choose from.”
THIS ‘N AT *Sullivan on the series: “When you get this far in the playoffs every team is really good. It’s hard to control all of the games and situations. These are two good teams going at it. They have good players. At times they have momentum. At times we have momentum.”
*Matt Cullen on Game 4: “It wasn’t a good game for us. We’re not happy with the way that things went, but throughout this entire playoff, especially the last half of the year, we’ve been really resilient and responded to all kinds of different adversity. I expect us to.”
*Brian Dumoulin on Daley: “He’s an important part of our defense corps. He’s been playing well for us ever since he got here. He’s a leader in the locker room. He’s a leader on the ice. He’s an important person. But that’s part of the game. Injuries are going to happen, so we’re going to find a way to battle through it and turn it into a positive.”