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Insider Only Pens – Flyers Off-day Report: Niskanen pushing to play; Malkin’s line has 0 ES points, -14 rating but Bylsma happy with their play

— Defenseman Matt Niskanen who has sat out the last two playoff games, is not at full strength and in an ideal situation would sit out at least a couple more games. Niskanen, according to sources, is dealing with a shoulder injury that is causing him a lot of discomfort and the team doesn’t know if the appropriate amount of strength is there for him to be able to take a hard hit without re-aggravating the injury like he did against the Bruins.
However, it’s an injury Niskanen could play with and with the Penguins on the brink of possibily falling down 0-3, Niskanen is pushing to play tomorrow but it’s not clear yet if he will get the OK from team doctors tomorrow.
“Our backs are against the wall, ” Niskanen said. “A lot of players play with pain this time of year. Aches and pains and I’m no different. I’ve got to get ready and as soon as I’m physically able, I’ll make sure I get out there, ” he said. “Despite not being close to full strength, if Niskanen can function enough he wants to be out there tomorrow. “Right now it’s just a matter of strength and being able to do what I need to do out there, ” Niskanen said on the injury. “Everybody plays through pain and that’s not going to be an issue. It’s going to be a functional thing and if I can play the way I need to play without anything holding me back.
— It was well known coming into this series that the Flyers were going to be threat to score on all four lines and a storyline to emerge though two games is that the Flyers are a four line team and the Penguins don’t feel they are.
11 Flyers forwards had over 13 minutes of ice time and over 11:40 of ice time at even strength in Game 2, while Pittsburgh’s 4th line of Arron Asham – Joe Vitale and Craig Adams had under 7 minutes of ice time at even strength with Vitale having just 4:19 of ice time and Arron Asham seeing 5:58 of ice time at even strength.

— The Penguins top line of Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal have combined for 0 even strength points and a minus-14 rating through two games. By comparison, the Steve Sullivan – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis line has combined for 10 even strength points and a +1 rating.
Bylsma though is showing no signs of breaking up the Malkin line and gave the line a confidence boost today, praising their play in the offensive zone to the media. “Their play has been good, ” Bylsma said. “Last game they played in the offensive zone and they were effective there. They’re in a tough matchup right now and I thought last game was a lot of what we need {from them]. In the offensive zone they were effective there.”
— Bylsma was asked today if the Penguins play a trap when holding a lead. “We play and have always played a 1-2-2 trap, ” Bylsma said. “We did it for maybe two games before the playoffs started and the 29 games that we did, we were 26-0-3 in the regular season going into the third.”
— Defenseman Kris Letang on goaltender Marc Andre Fleury who is 0-2 with a 5.45 goals against average and .804 save percentage. “Marc Andre has been great, ” Letang said. Letang today on dealing with the Philadelphia atmosphere. “It’s going to be tough.”
— The Flyers are 17-0 all-time when they lead a series 2-0 after two games and if the series drags on or the Flyers advance to the second round, they figure to get much stronger up front. 22 year old winger James Van Riemsdyk who had surgery March 6 to repair a broken bone in his left foot, skated today and while he indicated he won’t be playing Sunday, JVR told the reporters that he is “getting close” to returning to action.
“You just want to get to the point where you can contribute out there,” he said, ” JVR said via “It’s one of those things where it’s tough to jump in at this time of year, but the team has been doing a great job. I’m just doing what I can to stay positive and be a good team guy and be a good cheerleader right now _ and focus on getting myself healthy and back into the lineup.”

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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