Pens to play with just five d-men in crucial tilt versus Isles

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Pittsburgh will be undermanned in the first of two games that could decide its playoff fate.

On Friday, head coach Mike Johnston announced that injured d-man Derrick Pouliot would miss tonight’s game, meaning the Pens will ice just five blueliners when they host the Isles at Consol.

A rash of poor health and cap constraints have left Pittsburgh in this position. Olli Maatta, Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff are out with various ailments and, as a result, journeyman Taylor Chorney was recently brought up from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton because his (relatively low) cap hit fit within the financial parameters of a recall.

The Pens are asking a lot of Chorney, 27. He’s played almost exclusively in the AHL over the last three seasons and, since appearing in 42 games in his rookie campaign, has skated in just 22 NHL contests.

So the Pens will play tonight with a blueline comprised of Chorney, Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi, Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy. It’s the same five-man unit that struggled in Tuesday’s loss to Ottawa after Pouliot exited with his injury; Martin played over 29 minutes, Scuderi over 25 while Cole and Lovejoy were both over 21 (Chorney, playing in just his fifth game of the season, played 13:34.)

The Penguins blew a 3-0 lead against the Sens, eventually losing 4-3 in OT. That said, Pittsburgh still controls its own destiny for the playoffs — if they beat the Isles and Sabres, they’re in (and could pass New York for third in the Metropolitan Division.)