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Saturday, April 14, 2012
Pens-Flyers notes: Niskanen might return

By Scott Burnside

Defenseman Matt Niskanen skated in practice for the first time since injuring his shoulder late in the regular season. It’s possible he could rejoin the Pens' lineup if he has enough strength in the shoulder.

“Today was his first day back in practice and that was a step in the right direction,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He certainly has to have the ability to play with the strength that he needs to have to play. That will be the deciding factor."

The Malkin-Couturier matchup

Conventional wisdom would suggest that having rookie Sean Couturier matched up against regular-season scoring champ Evgeni Malkin would be a mismatch, but conventional wisdom often takes a holiday come playoff time. Couturier had three goals and an assist in Game 2, including a back-breaker with about two minutes to go in regulation that gave the Flyers a 7-5 lead.

Malkin, meanwhile, has just two assists in the series, both picked up in Game 2 on the power play. He is minus-5.

“They’re in a tough matchup right now and I thought last game was a lot of what we need from them," Bylsma said. "In the offensive zone they were effective there. We know it’s going to be a real factor going forward in Games 3 and 4 where they’re going to have that matchup and they’re going to be faced with that situation and they got to keep playing and play through it and be effective.

“If we had won those two games, we’d think Malkin was playing better than when we’re down 2-0."