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What Pittsburgh’s lineup might look like minus Neal, Martin, Asham, Adams…and maybe Michalek?

Apr 18, 2012, 11:37 AM EDT

Dan Bylsma, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cooke AP

To say the Penguins will face adversity tonight is a major understatement.

In addition to playing a do-or-die Game 4 down 3-0 in their series with Philadelphia, the Pens will be without the services of 40-goal man James Neal, top-four defenseman Paul Martin and a pair of gritty checking forwards in Arron Asham and Craig Adams. There’s also the not-so-small issue of blueliner Zbynek Michalek missing the morning skate (more on that below.)

So, what will the Pittsburgh lineup look like without them?

Here’s what we know:

– The lines at today’s practice were Steve Sullivan-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy-Evgeni Malkin-Chris Kunitz, Eric Tangradi-Jordan Staal-Matt Cooke, Richard Park-Joe Vitale-Dustin Jeffrey.

–Tangradi, 23, is huge (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) and scored 31 points in 37 games with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this year.

– Defenseman Simon Despres (also huge: 6-foot-4, 229 pounds) was recalled from Wilkes-Barre today and will likely replace Martin in the lineup. Despres played in 18 games with the Pens this season.

– Michalek missed Wednesday’s morning skate, an unexplained absence after practicing on Tuesday without issue. If he can’t go, the Pens will be forced to fill nearly 50 minutes of ice time (between him and Martin.)

Dan Rosen of NHL.com notes that Pittsburgh rotated its defensive pairings at practice this morning, meaning it was difficult to tell who would play with who (and who would be in/out.)

Judging by what transpired this morning, Bylsma’s toughest task will be managing the blueline. Martin averaged 22:08 of ice time over the first three games, Michalek 24:02 — it seems like Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland will be forced into expanded roles as a reult, which could be a big issue.

Update: According to Bylsma, Martin’s definitely out while Michalek is a game-time decision.

  1. atb4 - Apr 18, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    It’s not like it could get worse defensively, right?

    • mmmpierogi - Apr 18, 2012 at 5:34 PM

      Yeah – if they put in Thiessen and he played like he did in that Ottawa game. I’d say it could get a lot worse.

  2. bcisleman - Apr 18, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Philly MUST finish them tonight. They’ll NEVER get a better chance.

    • mercyflush - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      agreed completely. Say the Pens pull off the win tonight. Then you’re talking game 5 at Pitt, with Neal back, and a confidence boost for the whole Pens team. They win that and even though its still 3-2 Flyers, the Pens have the momentum and nothing to lose, and the Flyers start squeezing their sticks a little tighter come game 6…. then game 7 is on the road.

      Tonight’s game is huge for the Flyers. Pens are too talented, the Flyers cant let them think they can get back into the series.

      • benzoids - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:10 PM

        Agree. Hope the Pens can win, but you don’t want to play with fire by giving them a glimmer of hope.

  3. napoleonblownapart6887 - Apr 18, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    In a “looking to next year” sense, I’m really excited to see Despres get some playoff ice time. Despres with Brian Strait are both solid young DMen who could be at the center of a rebuild on the defensive side of things.

    Also any Pens fan will tell you that Eric Tangradi’s line in the AHL, while somewhat impressive, is not indicative of his play at the NHL level…

  4. jpelle82 - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    i would take depres over martin anyway. he is one of the main reasons the penguins are down 3-0 anyway

    • crashtheboards55 - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      yeah do doubt. schenn did us a favor, not that i want to see anyone get injured.

    • napoleonblownapart6887 - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      I agree. I’m hoping Shero’s first move over the summer is a buy out of Martin’s contract. What is it, half the salary over twice the years or something like that?

      • atb4 - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        I don’t see that happening, but maybe. If Shero really wants him gone that bad, I would guess he’d try to dump him to a team trying to get to the salary floor.

      • claysbar - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        Would cost approx. 2.55 mill next season and approx. 1.5 mill for five seasons after, not too bad. But lots of talk of an amnesty buyout with the new CBA next year, so they could buy him out with no cap penalty. ( per CAPGEEK.com )

  5. girouxtangclan - Apr 18, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Different players, same result… High scoring game and a Flyers win.

  6. ml3939 - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Coming from the vantage point of a Flyer’s fan, I think these absences could help the Pens and hurt the Flyers. Obviously losing Neal and Michalek hurts. If any team can afford to lose a 40 goal scorer, it is the Pens as they still have plenty of offense.

    Besides getting in the Pens head, I think the Flyers prove to be a match up nightmare for the Pens because of their offensive depth. The Pens could go ahead and play run and gun offense with pretty much any other team because teams cannot match them offensively top to bottom. Offensively Giroux is the only elite talent the Flyers have in comparison to Crosby and Malkin but as you go down the rosters from there, the Flyers have much more offensive depth and feature four lines that can score. It suits them to play in shootout type games (besides those couple of hiccups with Winnipeg). Teams who are successful against the Flyers such as the Rangers focus on playing defense and capitalizing on the mistakes of a team that is sure to make when they are playing an offense type first game.

    These changes may change the mindset of the Pens approach tonight which to my dismay could prove to be beneficial for them. This is one instance I would love to be wrong.

  7. tackledummy1505 - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    Hey Pens fans, no credit to the Flyers at all. Malkin has been totally shut down and Crosby’s losing it cause Giroux is being called a better player. To top everything off the Flyers are going for the season sweep. 1- Flyers won the Jagr sweepstakes 2- Flyers won the season series record. 3- 2 Flyers move on in the NHL 13 cover with 0 Penguins. 4- lastly Flyers are trying to take the playoff series sweep. It’s been a rough year for Penguins fans. Doesn’t look good for football either in that city

    • aglumac - Apr 18, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      Why doesnt football look good, i know its off topic but i guess we dont have a dream team like philly

  8. heyzeus143 - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Paul Martin is horrendous, #4 is not much better, Joe Morrow where are you

  9. barkar942 - Apr 18, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    Hey, speaking of Neal, did anyone else see him jump off the bench for a line change before he scored his goal and jump right at , I believe, Briere, who was with his back to the boards watching the play in the neutral zone, and tried to make it look like he stumbled coming over the boards and slew-footed Briere to the ice without the puck being anywhere near him?
    That alone was dirty, and then there was the Giroux lunge with the elbow.
    Neal at least was suspended for the remainder of the series. One game is all Philly needs.

  10. jasol20 - Apr 18, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    I honestly would have laughed out loud if I had seen that these suspensions made way for “Steve Macintyre was called up from Wilkes-Barre today”. I think the league would have had a collective heart attack.

  11. mclovinhockey - Apr 18, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Honestly the pens have nothing to lose, phillys rookies have been the big reason the pens are down 3-0. Now Pitt has to call up a handful of talent. E.T. Is a great young player. Him going up against his home town team might light a spark in his ass. The pens could easily take this game. Go flyers though.

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