Monday was a day of rest for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers after their series opened with three games in basically a four full day stretch from the time of Wednesday evening to Sunday evening.
Today both teams were back at it on opposite sides of PA in their respective practice facilities to prepare for Wednesday night’s Game 4.
Biggest news for the Pens was who wasn’t on the ice, key players Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang were missing.
#Pens lines without Hornqvist and Letang:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) April 17, 2018
Matt Hunwick has been used as a placeholder already when Olli Maatta had a maintenance day and missed a practice last week. One would probably expect a Dumoulin-Schultz line today if Letang were out, so he’s probably going to play again tomorrow. Not that the Pens will tell you as much or anything. Other than playing in Game 3 on Sunday Letang hasn’t skated since receiving a hit from Claude Giroux on Friday night, he missed practice on Saturday as well.
Letang (and Sidney Crosby among a few others) are in the routine of skipping the playoff game day morning skate, so don’t be surprised when he is absent again tomorrow, that means nothing for Game 4 availability with Letang’s way of prepping for playoff games.
Similarly with the forward lines remaining intact it would appear Hornqvist should be expected to play tomorrow as well which should give Pittsburgh a familiar lineup again.
UPDATE: Nope, Hornqvist is out for Game 4.
Coach Sullivan on today's absences: "Tanger was maintenance. Hornqvist will be out for tomorrow night's game with an upper-body injury."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 17, 2018
Interestingly, coach Dave Hakstol has chosen a very patient path with few-to-any major changes in his lineup over the first three games of the series. Apparently this is getting to an end with some real changes for a first time.
Projected lines:— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) April 17, 2018
This is a load-up of skill and definitely strengthens the Flyers top-6. It is a bit puzzling (and hopefully fortunate) that for some reason Hakstol is staying away from a Giroux-Couturier-Konecny line that was really, really good in the last half of the season. But hey, that’s his team and decision.
Based on today, Oscar Lindbolm (no points in the 3 games) will be a healthy scratch and the series will see a debut for Jordan Weal. This will be the first change for either team to bring a player out of the lineup.
Sean Couturier’s status may have taken a turn for the worse, as he left practice after getting at least temporarily hurt.
Was a collision with Radko Gudas that sent Couturier off. Couple line mates were huddled around him when McCrossin came out.— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) April 17, 2018
Have no idea of severity with Couturier, so no point in overreacting right now. Most of the time when these things happen, the guy plays the next day (especially this time of year). But everything is heightened in the playoffs, of course.— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) April 17, 2018
Philly is in deep trouble without Couturier as their center depth would be Nolan Patrick and then replacement level (at best) players in Valtteri Filpulla and Jori Lehtera. There’s always the chance Giroux could move back to center too, but I guess we’ll see what (if any) news comes out before getting too far down this path. Meltzer is right that a lot of these practice injuries end up being minor blips on the radar. But, if it’s not....
One other interesting item could be in net
Mrazek and Neuvirth splitting one net while Elliott has the other, but every time I look down at that end it’s been Neuvirth in there and not Mrazek.— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) April 17, 2018
Michal Neuvirth may be a candidate to keep an eye on. I believe officially he’s been “day to day” since leaving a game vs Colorado on March 28th with a lower-body injury. He’s been practicing and seemingly ramping up ever so slightly. Important to note that to this point Petr Mrazek has been serving as the backup goalie dressing for games.
Two years ago, Neuvirth was totally unreal in 3 playoff games for the Flyers against the Caps, stopping 103/105 pucks (.981 save%) and winning 2 games while giving up 0.67 GAA. He was incredibly good and got Philly back into that series after they fell behind in a 0 games to 3 hole.
However, the last full game Neuvirth has played was February 16th. It’s tough to imagine he’s riding in on the proverbial white horse to totally bail the Flyers out given his injury history and lack of recent playing time. He probably can’t be in great form. But if I’m the Penguins, I want to see nothing but Brian Elliott in net, please and thank you.