PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the number one seed in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
Today, the team got some more good news as both Evgeni Malkin (upper body) and James Neal (concussion) returned to practice.
While both will not play tomorrow night against the Ottawa Senators, being back on the ice for practice is another step in their recovery.
“We had a group skate prior to practice including [Sidney Crosby, James Neal,] Paul Martin and Evgeni Malkin. Evgeni joined us for practice – Nealer for just a few drills, but they’re all progressing on the ice and doing pretty well. In terms of our lineup for tomorrow, Evgeni Malkin will not go on the trip with us so he will not be playing tomorrow, still day-to-day and the rest will be a game-time decision,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
Watch: Dan Bylsma’s post-practice interview:
Kris Letang is also questionable for tomorrow after being ill today.
With the top seed locked up, the focus for the Penguins now shifts to fine-tuning their game and making sure they are ready for when the playoffs start.
“I think it’s really imperative for us to finish strong here and don’t take our foot off the gas. Because you look at the teams that have had good success in the playoffs the last couple of years, like [the Los Angeles Kings] last year, they had to play their last 10 or so games like playoff games just to get in. I think that has a big carryover to how you play in the playoffs,” Brooks Orpik said.
Watch: Pascal Dupuis’ post-practice interview:
“Obviously it helps, but at the same time we have to play our game. We have to now hat it looks like and we have to keep playing the same way. It’s not a switch that you turn on and off like you saw in the last couple years here. We have been playing the right way and we have to keep going that way,” Pascal Dupuis said.
A manhunt for a second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings forced their game against the Bruins on Friday to be delayed until Saturday. As a result, Saturday’s scheduled home game against the Sabres was rescheduled for Tuesday night.
The Penguins were confined to their hotel during the manhunt, but were paying close attention to the manhunt.
“We watched a lot of news. Even when we had a hospitality room set up to play cards and kind of just hang out, but we always had a TV on,” Orpik said. “I think we were just relieved just to get to play the game, get back to some sense of normalcy.”
Watch: Brooks Orpik’s post-practice interview:
The Penguins will travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators at 7:30 p.m.
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