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Welcome back: Martin returns to Pens lineup, Neal ‘ready to go’

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are returning to health.

On Monday, club appeared primed to make two significant strides towards a full lineup, as defenseman Paul Martin — who’s been out since November — and forward James Neal sounded as though they’d make their returns against Florida.

Here’s the situation on Martin, from NHL.com:

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said three injured Penguins will return against Florida but did not specify which three. He said the returning players will give the Penguins eight healthy defensemen, indicating Martin, who has missed 23 games with a broken tibia, will return.

Although Martin was paired with Brooks Orpik at the morning skate, Bylsma said Martin will be eased into the lineup.

As for Neal, he declared himself “ready to go” after sitting out last Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Washington. Even though he only missed one game, Neal actually hasn’t played in nine days as the Pens are in the midst of one of the lightest parts of their schedule (Neal last played on Jan. 11 versus Calgary.)

Neal skated alongside usual linemates Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen this morning. Fellow forwards Jayson Megna and Chuck Kobasew also took the morning skate after missing time with lower-body injuries (six games missed for Kobasew, 13 for Megna.)

Should all these players return tonight, it’ll leave Pittsburgh with just seven players out to injury: Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Chris Conner, Andrew Ebbett, Brian Gibbons, Joe Vitale and Tomas Vokoun.

Related: Pens’ Dupuis to have ACL surgery Feb. 12

So it looks like Mike Ribeiro is a healthy scratch for the Predators

Nashville Predators' Mike Ribeiro (63) gets off a pass as he lies on the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Mike Ribeiro isn’t playing in Game 3 for the Nashville Predators against the San Jose Sharks, and it doesn’t appear to be for health reasons.

Well, his production hasn’t been very healthy.

The polarizing playmaker has only mustered a single assist and zero goals in nine playoff games; Ribeiro hasn’t scored a point against the Sharks so far.

Ribeiro isn’t exactly known for his offensive acumen, either, so there’s not much motivation to keep him in the lineup if he isn’t producing offense. Ultimately, it’s easy to see why he’s a healthy scratch.

Pontus Aberg looks to make his NHL debut via this big playoff game while Craig Smith is believed to play.

It should be interesting to see how Nashville responds to this challenge.

WATCH LIVE: Game 3 of Sharks – Predators, Stars – Blues

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) skates with the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The Nashville Predators hope to get back in their series now that the San Jose Sharks are visiting “Smashville.” Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars and Blues jostle for a 2-1 lead in St. Louis.

You can keep up with Game 3 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders (which is in progress) right here and on NBCSN.

Game 3 of Sharks – Predators is on USA Network and can be streamed via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Finally, Game 3 of Stars – Blues airs on NBCSN. Keep an eye out for notes if there’s overlap with Bolts – Isles (which would bump it temporarily to NHL Network), but either way, you can stream the action below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Video: Jonathan Drouin shaken up by huge Thomas Hickey hit

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Jonathan Drouin‘s strong playoff play has been a big story for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but his health is in question after taking a huge hit on Tuesday.

As you can see from the video above, Drouin was shaken up by an enormous check from New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey. It’s believed that Drouin went to “The Quiet Room” to see if he suffered a concussion; PHT will pass along whatever information becomes available.

(NHL teams aren’t exactly forthcoming with this information.)

The Islanders actually ended up with a power play from the fallout, as Hickey’s hit didn’t earn a penalty. The general reaction is that it wasn’t a dirty hit, yet some might disagree with that sentiment.

Update: Drouin didn’t come out during the beginning of the third period. He did, however, return midway through the final frame.

2016 Foundation Player Award finalists: Giordano, Martin, Subban

Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban walks away after taking with reporters during an end of season availability at the team training facility Monday, April 11, 2016 in Brossard, Quebec. None of the seven Canadian NHL teams was good enough this season to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, a dismal milestone in the home of modern hockey and the first time it has happened since the 1969-70 season. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The NHL named the three finalists for the 2016 Foundation Player Award on Tuesday: Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, New York Islanders forward Matt Martin and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

The awarded is handed to “an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

The winner gets to hand $25K to the charity of his choice.