MORNING SKATE MEMO: Pens vs. Flyers

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Jake Voracek fights Rob Scuderi in 2015. Claude Giroux wonders why. (Getty)

Jake Voracek fights Rob Scuderi in 2015. Claude Giroux wonders why. (Getty)

There are plenty of storylines surrounding tonight’s installment in the Penguins-Flyers rivalry.

Due to weather, the Penguins flew into Philadelphia this morning. Day-of-game travel is certainly unusual at this level.

On top of that, the Penguins are trying to finish a five-game cross-continent road trip without a regulation loss, the Flyers are fighting for their playoff lives, Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary is on fire, and the Penguins are within two points of first place in the Metropolitan.

The dominant theme at morning skate here at the Wells Fargo Center, however, was injuries.

Matt Cullen, Mark Streit and Patric Hornqvist all skated. Cullen and Streit are on track to play tonight. Hornqvist is still on the road to recovery. The ramifications of those developments will fill up an entire blog post easily.

— Streit left Monday’s game in Calgary with a lower-body injury after blocking a shot, going to the hospital to get checked out. He was back at it this morning, however.

“We’ll see tonight,” Streit said. “This morning felt pretty good. I’ll do warm-up and see how I feel. … I was surprised how good it felt.”

— Perhaps due to the question mark around Streit’s availability, there were new D pairs at morning skate, highlighted by the reunion of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz.

Cole-Schultz
Dumoulin-Hainsey
Streit-Ruhwedel

— Cullen has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury. He said it’s not the kind of injury he’s going to have to grit his teeth and play through the rest of the season. He said the rest did him some good and he “should be 100 percent.”

— Cullen’s return shook up the bottom six. Line combinations were:

Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary
Kunitz-Malkin-Kessel
Wilson-Bonino-Rowney
Kuhnhackl-Cullen-Sundqvist

Looks like Josh Archibald draws the short straw and sits.

Rowney’s versatility allows him to not only stay in the lineup but move to a more prominent spot. Sundqvist hasn’t played much wing at all in North America, but I’m pretty sure he spent significant time there when he played in Sweden. Top line has been dominant the last couple of games. Second line hasn’t been.

— Hornqvist was back on the ice after reporting concussion symptoms a week ago in Winnipeg. He has not yet been cleared for contact. That’s the next step.

Hornqvist said he doesn’t feel the need to be any more careful or cautious in his recovery than he normally would because it’s his second concussion of the season.

“You know when you feel good and you don’t feel good. I feel good right now. We’ll see. We’ll go from there,” he said.

— The only other injured player without a timetable for a return is Kris Letang (upper body). Here’s what Sullivan said about Letang today. I’d say it strikes a more optimistic tone than his previous comments last week.

“Nothing new other than he is making progress,” Sullivan said. “He is feeling better. The next step will be to get him on the ice and see how that goes. We’ve been encouraged with the last few days and we’ll see where it goes from there, but he is making progress.”

— Matt Murray was the first goalie off for the Penguins. Steve Mason was the first off for the Flyers.

— Some focus on Streit from the Philadelphia media today, obviously, since it’s his first game back since being traded between intrastate rivals (with a stop in Tampa in between).

Here’s what strikes me about his return: Streit didn’t just go from rival to rival or one side of the state to the other or from a non-playoff team to a playoff team. His entire role changed. With the Flyers, he was expected to help bring along a young defense corps. The Penguins just want him to help them win right now. I’ll write about that more this afternoon.

More after the game,

jb

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