LATEST INJURY BUZZ
With the No. 1 seed locked up, the Pittsburgh Penguins intend to continue to rest players going into the final week of the regular season.
The Penguins practiced at Southpointe today and travel to Ottawa this afternoon for a potential 1-8 matchup in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Senators are currently 7th in the Eastern Conference with 52 points and the No. 8 New York Rangers trail Ottawa by just two points. Both teams have four games remaining.
Odds point to the Penguins playing the Rangers (50 pts), Jets (49 pts) or Senators (52 pts) in the first round.
With Senators ownership and management still livid about the Matt Cooke – Erik Karlsson situation, a Senators – Penguins first round matchup would sure not be short of storylines especially with Karlsson on the fast track to returning to the lineup from a torn Achilles that he was suppose to be sidelined with for 4 to 6 months.
The Penguins and Senators faceoff tomorrow night in Ottawa and the Penguins knowing that Ottawa might be looking for repercussions against Cooke, the Penguins will continue to sit out several notable players and maybe even Cooke:
*James Neal and Evgeni Malkin would be playing if this were the playoffs, according to a source, but both will sit out again Monday night. Bylsma said both players won’t make the trip to Ottawa and will skate on their own tomorrow. Neal practiced with the team today and the Penguins might sit both players for the rest of the regular season.
*Sidney Crosby (broken jaw) and Paul Martin (hand) skated prior to practice which they have done for about a week now, but neither player has been cleared to practice with the team yet. Crosby is not expected to return for any of the remaining regular season games but the Penguins do hope Martin gets clearance to return to the lineup for one of the final regular season games as he’s been out of the lineup since March.
“Paul Martin is a guy who is really on a clear path, continuing to progress in his rehab and has a chance to probably play at some point in time,” Bylsma said yesterday in Boston when asked if any of the injured players would play in any of the final regular season games.
*Also not expected to play tomorrow night is defenseman Kris Letang who is ill and is not likely to make the trip to Ottawa.
*Will the Penguins dress Matt Cooke vs the Senators? Many feel they won’t. The team remains mum on the issue but there’s a reason enforcer Steve MacIntyre will make his season debut vs the Senators.