Ian Cole

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Bryan Rust returns to Penguins lineup; Schultz, Hornqvist remain out

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PITTSBURGH — After missing the past two games due to injury, Bryan Rust will be back in the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

He will replace forward Conor Sheary who will be coming out of the lineup to make room.

Rust will start the game skating on the third-line alongside Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney.

But while the Penguins are getting a little bit of help on the injury front with the return of Rust, forward Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Justin Schultz will remain out of the lineup.

Schultz took part in the pre-game warm-up but did not take any line rushes and returned to the locker room five minutes before anyone else. With Schultz and Chad Ruhwedel (injured in Game 4) out of the lineup that means Mark Streit will be in and skate alongside Ian Cole on the team’s third pairing.

Hornqvist did not take part in the pre-game warm-up.

As for the Senators, they will go with seven defensemen on Sunday with Ben Harpur drawing into the lineup.

Video: Bobby Ryan crunches Chad Ruhwedel, who has yet to return

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The Pittsburgh Penguins could be facing another injury on defense.

According to reports, Chad Ruhwedel wasn’t on the Penguins bench for the beginning of the second period, after he took a crunching and controversial hit from Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan in the final minute of the first period during Game 4.

As you can see in the video, Ruhwedel remained down on the ice in pain while a scrum ensued along the boards. Ian Cole, who came to the defense of Ruhwedel, dropped Ryan to the ice and was assessed a minor penalty for roughing. That was the only penalty on the play.

With Ruhwedel gone for now, the Penguins — already with Kris Letang and Justin Schultz — will be forced to play with five defenders.

Pittsburgh trails in the series 2-1, but took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

Related: WATCH LIVE: Penguins at Senators — Game 4

Penguins could dress seven defensemen tonight in Ottawa

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There’s reason to believe the Pittsburgh Penguins may go with seven defensemen in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final tonight at Ottawa.

Justin Schultz will not be one of those seven, after getting hurt in Game 2.

But Trevor Daley was a possibility to return for Game 3, and at this morning’s skate he was paired with Olli Maatta. The other two pairs were Brian Dumoulin with Ron Hainsey and Chad Ruhwedel with Ian Cole.

Mark Streit, meanwhile, worked on the Penguins’ top power play, which is now minus Schultz. Streit has yet to make an appearance in these playoffs, but head coach Mike Sullivan hinted yesterday that that could change tonight.

“He’s a really savvy player,” Sullivan said. “I think he could help us on our power play. He could help us get out of our end zone. I think he’s got great puck skills.”

Read more: Penguins defense holding together, somehow

To make room for a seventh d-man, the Penguins wouldn’t have to scratch a forward. They simply wouldn’t insert a winger for Bryan Rust, who was also hurt in Game 2. Rust did not take line rushes this morning.

If the Penguins go with six defensemen, expect to see Tom Kuhnhackl enter the lineup.

Update:

Penguins defense holding together vs. Senators, somehow

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are proving the old adage that you can never have enough defensemen.

They could actually use a few more now, after Justin Schultz got hurt in last night’s win over the Senators. The Pens were already without two injured d-men: Trevor Daley and, of course, Kris Letang.

Schultz’s early departure from Game 2 forced Brian Dumoulin to log a team-high 26:08 of ice time, followed by Ron Hainsey with 24:49. Next was Olli Maatta at 22:33, while AHL journeyman Chad Ruhwedel had 21:25 and Ian Cole finished with 20:20.

Hainsey, 36, was traded from Carolina in February. He’d never been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before. He’s sure in them now.

“Keep ’em short,” Hainsey said of shift lengths, per the Post-Gazette. “You get into a rhythm, kind of, with a rotation going. Just don’t overtax yourself at any one point because if you get into a situation where you can’t recover, that’s when you can go out there and make mistakes. I think we did a fairly good job of keeping ’em 40 seconds and not being tired when we went back out there.”

The Pens also acquired veteran defender Mark Streit at the deadline. But the 39-year-old has been a healthy scratch for the playoffs.

It remains to be seen who will be ready to go tomorrow when the Eastern Conference Final shifts to Ottawa. There had been talk that Daley could return by then. Head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t provide an update on Schultz after Game 2.

Whichever d-men end up dressing, the Pens are confident in what they’ve got back there.

“There’s always the next guy who’s going to step up,” said Maatta. “Everybody has to play a little more minutes. I don’t think it really matters. We have so many good players in here.”

Murray returns, will back up Fleury tonight

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Pittsburgh will have a familiar face on the bench for tonight’s massive Game 7 in Washington.

Matt Murray, who hasn’t dressed since suffering a lower-body injury during warmup ahead of Game 1 in the Columbus series, has been declared healthy and will serve as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup tonight, per Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan.

Murray, who backstopped the Pens to the Stanley Cup last spring, hadn’t participated with the team until today’s morning skate, replacing Tristan Jarry in the process.

Prior to today, Murray had been skating on his own.

Fleury has fared well in the 22-year-old’s absence, going 7-4 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.78 GAA. That said, the last two games have been rough. Fleury’s allowed nine goals on 58 shots, though it’s tough to blame him for a lot of them. Pittsburgh’s defense has been decimated by injury, most notably by the absences of Kris Letang and Trevor Daley.

As a result, the Pens iced a six-man unit of Justin Schultz, Olil Maatta, Ron Hainsey, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin and Chad Ruhwedel in Game 6. Schultz led all blueliners in TOI, with 22:13, while Dumoulin finished second at 21:15.