MONDAY’S PRACTICE BUZZ
The Pittsburgh Penguins went through preparations today for their first round matchup against the New York Islanders and head coach Dan Bylsma put the team through a fast pace practice that was highlighted by a lot of intensity from the group.
One message from the coaching staff continues to be the mindset of focusing on winning four games and not looking past the underdog Islanders who no one outside of being an Islanders fan figures to give New York much of a shot.
“By no means a team we’re going to take lightly,” defenseman Mark Eaton said of the Islanders
The Penguins lineup for Game 1 remains unclear due to Sidney Crosby’s status as the team won’t know whether he can play until tomorrow afternoon, but there’s a lot of signs on what the lineup will likely be if Crosby is a no go.
UPDATE ON THE BLUELINE
*Defenseman Brooks Orpik skated on his own prior to practice and there is a sense around the team that Orpik has a chance to play in Game 1. Orpik is officially listed as day to day with a lower body injury and it would be odd not seeing him out there for a playoff game.
I spoke with Paul Martin after practice and Martin said that in the event that Orpik isn’t able to play, he’s been working in practice with Deryk Engelland and he also mentioned Simon Despres as a player he’s comfortable playing with, although Despres for the most part was working as the extra pair with Robert Bortuzzo in today’s skate.
Martin figures to play a shutdown role against the John Tavares line, and logged 23:31 of ice time vs Hurricanes in his first game since late March. Martin said it was important to get a game under his belt before the playoffs.
“It was good,” Martin said of playing Saturday night. “That was the plan, we wanted to get a game in or two before playoffs to get back into the groove and feel what it’s like to get back in there.”
When fully healthy, the Penguins plan is to have their top-three defensive pairings being Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin, Mark Eaton – Kris Letang and Douglas Murray – Matt Niskanen. Any team that makes a deep playoff run will be forced to use seven or eight defensemen before it’s all said and done.
BENNETT BELOW GLASS, KENNEDY ON DEPTH CHART?
*The Penguins top-4 lines in today’s practice were the same lines they used in Saturday’s game vs Carolina, with the only change being Jarome Iginla and Pascal Dupuis flipping spots as Iginla was back on right wing and Dupuis moved over to left wing with Jussi Jokinen at center.
If Sidney Crosby gets cleared for Game 1, look for the final forward spot decision to come down to Tanner Glass and Tyler Kennedy.
MONDAY’S PRACTICE LINES
Kunitz – Malkin – Neal
Dupuis – Jokinen – Iginla
Morrow – Sutter – Cooke
Glass – Adams – Kennedy
Extra Line: Jeffrey/Vitale – Crosby – Bennett
Eaton – Letang
Martin – Engelland
Murray – Niskanen
Despres – Bortuzzo