Dan Bylsma, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cooke

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


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.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.