Game 4 Pre-Game Buzz

Mike Sullivan in Game 2 looked to be a coach who was catering to Evgeni Malkin.

In Game 3, it was a different story.

Despite the excellent possession numbers from Malkin, if a Rangers first period goal wasn’t overturned in the first period, we’re likely talking a lot more about Malkin’s poor effort away from the puck in the game.

In Game 3, Malkin was planted on the bench for the final five minutes of third period, and played just 10:42 at even strength, 13:36 overall.

Sullivan appeared to go from a coach to wanting to get Malkin heavily involved in Game 2, maybe even going a bit overboard, to a coach in Game 3 who leaned more on certain players who play his way and were part of the group in March/April that had the Penguins beating just about everybody.

Was this Sullivan making a statement to Malkin?

Most likely not.

Sullivan in hindsight just didn’t trust Malkin enough to put him on the ice with the Penguins trying to close out the game late.

Malkin and Olli Maatta were two examples from Game 3 where the strong possession numbers don’t tell the story with their performance. Maatta had some nice moments in exiting the zone, but defensively he continued to struggle with a lack of foot speed and poor angles.

— This is Matt Murray’s series the rest of the way. That much is becoming clear.

Marc Andre Fleury remained off the ice Thursday, marking the third straight day he didn’t skate with the team.

Even with the unlikelihood that Fleury is ready to play by Game 6 or Game 7 if the series goes that far, those close to the situation [hide] don’t anticipate a goalie change being made again this series, regardless of Fleury’s healthy.

“He ]Marc Andre Fleury] is going through a process,” Sullivan told reporters after the Penguins optional skate. “When he is ready to play, we’ll be sure to let you guys know. Right now, his status is day-to-day.”

Two weeks ago, Sullivan even left the door open for the possibility of Fleury playing in the regular season finale, to the Penguins 36 hours before Game 1 believing Fleury was going to be in play to start Game 1.

“He’s making significant progress,” Sullivan said of Fleury on April 7.

No one wants to say Fleury had a setback, but there certainly appears to be a miscalculation from where things stood 7-10 days ago to now.

That comes with the unknown for a player recovering from a concussion, especially one who suffered his second concussion in less than four months.

— The Penguins will dress the same lineup in Game 4. For the Rangers there is talk of Kevin Hayes being a healthy scratch, yet, Tanner Glass keeps playing.

What’s interesting is the primary line that worried Penguin coaches the most coming into this series was the Hayes-Staal-Fast line.

— Quote of the Day: “He’s playing inspired hockey and that’s been a great benefit for our whole group. I know our room has a lot of respect for him, both as a person and player.” — Mike Sullivan on Matt Cullen [/hide]