Tom Kuhnhackl

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Same lineup expected for Pens, but Sens will have changes

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Plenty of injuries on both sides ahead of tonight’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final between Pittsburgh and Ottawa.

We’ll start with the Penguins, who seem likely to ice the same lineup they did Sunday. Head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed today that Justin Schultz, Chad Ruhwedel, Patric Hornqvist, and Tom Kuhnhackl remain out.

“Kuhnhackl, Ruhwedel and Hornqvist stayed back in Pittsburgh. They’re rehabbing back there,” said Sullivan. “Schultz is here in Ottawa with us. He is rehabbing as well, but he will not play tonight.”

As for the Senators, head coach Guy Boucher has some “warmup decisions” to make. Forward Ryan Dzingel will be back in. Forwards Chris Kelly and Colin White could be in, too, because Tommy Wingels and Alex Burrows are both out.

The question is whether the Sens go with seven defensemen again, or back to six. If it’s the latter, White could draw in.

White, 20, has not played in these playoffs, and he only played two NHL games in the regular season.  A Boston College product, he was the 21st overall pick in the 2015 draft. He only recently signed his entry-level contract with the Sens.

“I mean, he’s a guy who’s a really smart player,” said Boucher. “He’s got speed, lots of speed, a guy that drives the net, and he’s very reliable on both ends of the ice. That’s why we’re considering him.”

The Senators need to win tonight. If they don’t, the Penguins will advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Murray gets Game 5 start for Penguins; injured players game-time decisions

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PITTSBURGH — In what should be no surprise following his performance in Game 4 on Friday night, Matt Murray will be back in the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon when they return home to face the Ottawa Senators, coach Mike Sullivan announced before the game.

Murray, who backstopped the Penguins to the Stanley Cup a year ago, opened the 2017 playoffs with an injury setting the stage for Marc-Andre Fleury to regain his starting job and carry the Penguins through the first two rounds. Even when Murray was healthy Fleury was playing far too well to be removed from the lineup. That changed in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals when Fleury gave up four goals in the first period and was replaced by Murray.

Murray went on to stop 19 of the 20 shots he faced that night, then stopped 24 out of 26 on Friday night.

In other lineup news for the Penguins, Sullivan also announced that forward Tom Kuhnhackl and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel will be out of the lineup due to injury. Ruhwedel suffered a concussion on Friday night following a hit by Bobby Ryan.

Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz will all be game-time decisions.

All three players have missed the past two games for the Penguins. While they would like to have any of them back in the lineup, Schultz’s absence is the one they are probably feeling the most given the banged up state of the defense.

No reinforcements coming for Penguins

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a new starting goalie between the pipes, but it doesn’t sound like they’ll have any new skaters tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa.

Defenseman Justin Schultz, along with forwards Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist, are not ready to return to action, according to Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. All three remain day-to-day with upper-body injuries.

Sullivan also said that Tom Kuhnhackl won’t be in the lineup tonight. It was thought that Kuhnhackl might play Wednesday in Game 3, but the Penguins went with seven defensemen instead, with Mark Streit picking up an assist on Sidney Crosby‘s power-play goal.

The Penguins lost Game 3 by four goals, falling 5-1 to the Sens.

Whether the Pens go with seven defenseman again tonight will be a game-time decision, Sullivan said.

The Senators lead the Penguins, 2-1, in the series.

Related: No real surprise Penguins are trailing Senators

It looks like Carl Hagelin could miss another game for Penguins

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After sitting out the Penguins’ Game 7 win over the Washington Capitals, it seems likely that forward Carl Hagelin will remain out of the lineup on Saturday night when they open the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators.

Even though Hagelin took part in the team’s optional morning skate, he remained on the ice after it ended for extra work along with Tom Kuhnhackl, Cameron Gaunce and Derrick Pouliot, seemingly indicating that he will be among the team’s scratches. Hagelin and Kuhnhackl, regulars in the Penguins’ lineup for most of the season, were replaced by Carter Rowney and Scott Wilson in their 2-0 win in Washington on Wednesday.

Hagelin missed the the last month of the regular season, as well as the first-round of the playoffs, due to a lower body injury.

He returned in Game 2 of their second-round series against the Capitals but never really seemed to be 100 percent. He never played more than 12:48 in the five games he played, and was limited to just 9:19 in their Game 6 loss.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked on Saturday if lineup continuity at this point in the season is a luxury, or something you can not really expect given the grind of the postseason.

“We’ve got some moving parts,” said Sullivan. “We believe we have a lot of depth within our team, and we can utilize guys in different ways to help our team win. So all of these guys that have been in our lineup here throughout the course of the Playoffs have played significant minutes for us during the regular season. They’ve all been a big part of this team’s ability to get to this point.

“So we believe, as a coaching staff, that we’ll lean on all of these guys to continue to help us win. We can only dress 12 forwards and 6 defensemen — or 18 skaters and 2 goalies, I should say. But certainly, our team is bigger than that. These guys, whether they’re in the lineup or they’re not in the lineup, they’re everybody bit as important to helping this team win.”

Rowney and Wilson did not add to the offense in Game 7 but they did bring some fresh legs to the Penguins’ lineup and gave them some strong shifts from the fourth line.

Sabres name Botterill eighth GM in franchise history

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It’s been rumored for days, but now it’s official — Jason Botterill is the new GM in Buffalo.

“We are very happy to welcome Jason Botterill to the Buffalo Sabres family,” owner Terry Pegula said in a release.  “Jason’s hockey knowledge, experience drafting and developing players, and his approach to management stood out to us during our interview process.

“Jason has built a solid reputation as a leader that connects strongly with players and staff around him. We are confident he will have a positive impact within our organization and will help us get to our ultimate goal.”

Botterill, 40, will take the position after serving as Jim Rutherford’s assistant with the Penguins, a position he also held under former GM Ray Shero.

The former NHL winger had emerged as the favorite for the Sabres gig in recent weeks, twice interviewing for the job. The position has been vacant since outgoing GM Tim Murray was fired last month.

Botterill certainly checks plenty of boxes for Buffalo. He’s a former Sabre, having finished off his playing career with the organization. He’s served in a variety of front office roles — originally scout in Dallas, before working his way up from Pittsburgh’s director of hockey ops.

Known as a salary cap expert with a keen eye for talent evaluation, he’s been instrumental in building up the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (where he serves as GM).

He was the one responsible for hiring Mike Sullivan in WBS and, on his watch, a number of farmhands have risen to prominent roles with the big club: Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel, to name a few.