Penguins Practice Update: Malkin to return for Game 1?

Kirk Irwin

A huge update for the day before the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets playoff series begins

Yesterday was an off-day and a prep day, and I hope we're all prepared because this is Game 1 Eve and both teams were on the ice.

But, before practice we learned that the Pittsburgh Penguins assigned Chuck Kobasew, Harry Zolnierczyk and Simon Despres to the AHL. Much needed reinforcements for the Baby Pens, who've lost tons of players to the NHL this season as both teams had to endure injuries.

Luckily for the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin and Joe Vitale returned to their normal spots centering the 2nd and 4th lines, respectively. Here's a look at the Pens lines:

Malkin also practiced on the #1 power play, a very positive development and as clear of a sign as we're likely to get before tomorrow that he should be playing in Game 1.

The #1 power play unit also included Kris Letang for this first time since his return. Letang and Malkin manned the points and Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Chris Kunitz played up front- for the traditional "all-star" loaded unit that the team likes to run.

Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Beau Bennett, Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter practiced as the #2 PP unit.

As far as the enemy goes, here's how the Columbus Blue Jackets looked at their morning practice today.

Those are very balanced lines, and one thing that's starting to stand out: Matt Calvert, Boone Jenner, Jared Boll, Derek McKenzie...There's a lot of grit broken up on each line.

And for their defense:

20 year old impressive rookie Ryan Murray is returning from injury himself and by slotting next to James Wisniewski, he's likely to see a lot of the Crosby line. Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson will also get the heavy assignment of the stacked Malkin line.

It's almost time for playoffs and as this day draws to a close, with it brings the dawn of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs tomorrow. Almost time to watch 'em go.

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