On the eve of the playoffs, the Penguins went through a fast pace, uptempo practice today at Southpointe. With the adrenaline rush of the playoffs starting, several players appeared to have a little extra jump in their step.
One of those players was 38 year old Alex Kovalev.
Here’s some tidbits from today’s skate.
— Winger James Neal will return to the lineup after sitting out the final regular season game due to a wrist injury.
Neal who has just 1 goal in 20 games with the Penguins, is looking forward to playing in his first playoff game and the playoff atmosphere that Pittsburgh is accustomed to playing in.
— The Penguins opened up practice with Jordan Staal centering the top line of Neal and Alex Kovalev but later in practice, Bylsma went back to his regular units with Kunitz – Staal – Kennedy and Neal – Letestu – Kovalev.
Expect to see those lines tomorrow night.
— Dan Bylsma said today that his lineup will be “gametime” but the only decisions believed to be gametime is who sits on the blueline.
Upfront, Mike Comrie is fully expected to be the odd-man out. He was the odd-man out in all drills today as Chris Conner skated on the third line with Max Talbot and Pascal Dupuis, while Arron Asham was on the 4th line with Mike Rupp and Craig Adams.
— Jordan Staal has an elevated role as the No. 1 center but don’t look for his role in the playoffs to change from years past.
“For last three years he has gone head to head against Ovechkin, Richards, Carter and shut them down as Jordan Staal playing his game.”.
“His focus is continuing to play the same way he has played the last three years for us. Very similar matchup situations for him, playing against other teams top lines”
— What has been nice to see from the coaching staff is that they stuck with a top power play unit for the final 3 games of the season.
James Neal – Jordan Staal and Alex Kovalev down low with Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek at the points.
The Penguins spent a good 10 minutes on their power play and it was good to see there also being an emphasis on working the puck down low.
The Penguins have scored a power play goal in three straight games and Bylsma again today praised Zbynek Michalek’s ability to shoot the puck from the point.
Game 1 Expected Lines
Neal – Letestu – Kovalev
Kunitz – Staal – Kennedy
Conner – Talbot – Dupuis
Rupp – Adams – Asham