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The Inside Scoop: Turning the Page

by Ashley Vesci / Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin skated with his teammates for the second straight day on Friday at CONSOL Energy Center.

The defenseman is still day-to-day after sustaining an upper-body injury on Saturday in Detroit, but he is getting closer to recovery.

“We’ll see how he responds today to practice,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “But I think he’s had a couple of pretty good days which is great progress from his stand point. But he’s getting a lot closer.”

Dumoulin, who has missed the last three games, is excited to be taking steps in the right direction and hopes to jump back into the lineup as soon as possible.

“It’s good to practice again,” Dumoulin said. “It’s good to be in the locker room with the guys and out there on the ice. It’s fun. I have a lot of fun. I love every guy on the team, so it’s fun to be around them. I want to play. I want to contribute to this team.”

Bryan Rust (day-to-day with a lower-body injury), Olli Maatta (week-to-week with a lower-body injury) and Marc-Andre Fleury were missing from practice. Sullivan said it was a maintenance day for the netminder, and said the other two were "a little bit closer, but not there yet."

The Penguins turned the calendar over to April this morning after an incredibly successful month of March. Pittsburgh played 16 games in March, their heaviest workload of the season, and finished with a record of 12-4. Oh yeah, and they are 10-1 in their last 11.

“I don’t think our mentality’s going to change,” captain Sidney Crosby explained. “We’ve had that desperation for a long time now, and hopefully we can keep that. But it’d be great to solidify something, there’s no doubt.”

The Penguins are hoping to carry their success into the final five games of the regular season so that they can roll into playoffs with a full head of steam.

Although the Pens are extremely close to clinching a postseason berth – they can get one tonight if Detroit loses to Minnesota in regulation, as their magic number is two – they are more concerned with continuing to improve as a team than worrying about what else is happening around the league.

“I think at this time of year, for every team in the league it’s hard not to look at the standings,” Sullivan said. “But I do think it’s important that we focus on what we control, and that’s what we’ve done and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. We’re going to focus on what we can control, and that’s our team and make sure we take care of our business at hand.”

The Penguins have a lot of depth down their roster, and everyone has contributed to their recent success. They have won their past four games and scored 19 goals over that stretch. The Penguins have had at least seven different players record points in all of those wins.

“We have a lot of really dynamic players, and I think that the big thing for us is we’ve had weapons come from different lines,” forward Eric Fehr explained. “Whether it’s Sid’s line, now it’s (Nick) Bonino’s line, it was (Evgeni Malkin)’s line when he was in. Different lines have heated up at different times, and it makes it extremely tough to defend.”

On Saturday afternoon, the Pens will close out their season series with the New York Islanders. The Pens are 2-1 against the Islanders so far this season.

The last time these two teams met was March 15 here in Pittsburgh, where the Pens won 2-1 in a shootout with Chris Kunitz scoring the only regulation goal and Kris Letang tallying the game-deciding marker.

Pittsburgh’s offense has exploded since that last meeting, scoring 34 goals in their past eight games.

“All these games coming down the stretch are important to keep our momentum going, our confidence,” defensemen Justin Schultz explained. “Any of these teams we could play in the first round, so we need to set the tone and be ready for them.”

Depending on how the regular season finishes out, the Pens could potentially face the Islanders.

“I think that we’ve been in this situation many times here down the stretch,” Crosby explained. “You’re playing a possible matchup. We don’t know what’s going to happen here, or what’s going to unfold.

“So it’s another divisional game, and we’ve had some pretty intense and hard-fought games against these guys the last couple. So just understanding that and making sure we keep doing the same things and playing with the same desperation we have been. And try to make sure we get a win.”

The Islanders have also seen some success in recent weeks. They have won four out of their past five games and are fighting to hold a wild-card position or possibly jump into the Metro’s top-three.

“You definitely don’t want to give them any ideas that they could beat you at any point,” Fehr said. “I think the series has been pretty even this year. They’ve had us there a few times, but we’re playing different hockey then we were previous games. I think we’re playing more as a whole unit, and our special teams are starting to heat up a little bit which is going to be key down the stretch.”
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