After 18-game absence, Martin returns to Pens lineup tonight

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Paul Martin will look to get his season on track Thursday against Winnipeg, returning to the Pittsburgh lineup for the first time since breaking his hand at the Olympics.

Martin, who missed 23 games earlier this season with a fractured tibia, will play for the first time in 18 games and provide a key veteran presence on the Pens’ back end. He’ll also provide a fresh look on the power play — Martin manned the point on the first unit at today’s morning skate; despite appearing in just 33 games this year, he still sits second among all Pens d-men in power play assists (with six).

More importantly, the return gives Martin a chance to knock off some rust prior to the start of the playoffs. He figures to be a key contributor for the Pens this spring, given he averages over 24 minutes per night and could be relied upon even more given the uncertainty surrounding Kris Letang’s return from a stroke.