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Insider Only Pens – Blue Jackets: Latest Lineup Buzz going into Game 1

After a lengthy fast paced practice, players inside the Penguins locker room today could sense and pretty much know that Evgeni Malkin is returning to the lineup tomorrow night in Game 1. “He looks like the normal {Geno} that we’re used to seeing,” winger James Neal said.
With it being playoff time, though, Malkin and head coach Dan Bylsma were both playing coy on Malkin’s status for Wednesday night.
“I feel great, skated full practice but we’ll see tomorrow,” Malkin said. “I feel great, hope it’s short time to come back.”
Malkin centered the Penguins second line of Jussi Jokinen and James Neal, and took all first team reps on the power play. Returning from a hairline fracture in his foot, his skating was strong.
With Malkin back and the coaches ready to see Kris Letang have an increased role on the power play, today’s No. 1 power play didn’t include Matt Niskanen or Paul Martin.
The Penguins power play has been at it’s best this season with Niskanen or Martin working as the power play quarterback not Letang.

Another injured player who returned to full practice and took regular line rushes was Joe Vitale. He centered the 4th line of Craig Adams and Brian Gibbons. Barring a setback, he should be available to play tomorrow night, though, Vitale is believed to have a type of injury that is going to bother him the rest of the playoffs.
“We’ll see how they are {Malkin, Vitlale} and react before we talk about what our lineup is going to be for tomorrow’s game,” Dan Bylsma said.
Much talk going into Game 1 was which direction the coaching staff will go with the bottom-6. The staff has different options of going big with Taylor Pyatt or small, fast. Based on today’s skate, they appear to be leaning towards going with speed as Brian Gibbons took rushes over Jason Megna and Pyatt.
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Beau Bennett
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin -James Neal
Tanner Glass – Brandon Sutter – Lee Stempniak
Brian Gibbons – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Extra’s: Taylor Pyatt – Jason Megna
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Matt Niskanen
Extra’s: Robert Bortuzzo – Deryk Engelland
Injury Notes: Marcel Goc (foot) is not expected to be available for the first two games. He has yet to be cleared to start skating…..The Blue Jackets will be without R.J. Umberger (shoulder) and Nick Foligno (knee) have been ruled out for Game 1, while Nathan Horton is out for the series……..

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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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