May 11—The Pittsburgh Penguins needed 35 players to make it through their 56-game regular season. At one point, they were down to their 12th defenseman; at others, four of their top nine forwards were out.
But with the postseason about to begin, indications are the Penguins could have the luxury of using the top 19 players it typically takes to play an NHL game.
Defensemen Mike Matheson, goalie Tristan Jarry and forwards Evegni Malkin, Brandon Tanev and Evan Rodrigues were full participants in practice Tuesday in Cranberry. Each had missed time of varying lengths — from Tanev's 18 games to Malkin's 8-plus minutes — because of injuries, and there was at least some question about the status of all for the opening of the playoffs.
"It's always good to have guys come back," wing Kasperi Kapanen said via video conference call with media. "Knock on wood, hopefully everybody stays healthy. And if everybody's healthy, we have a pretty stacked lineup."
The Penguins will face the New York Islanders in a first-round series that will begin at an undetermined point in the next week.
The only injured player who would be expected to dress for Game 1 who did not practice Tuesday was No. 2 goalie Casey DeSmith. DeSmith has a lower-body injury.
But Jarry (upper-body) was back after missing Saturday's regular-season finale because of an upper-body ailment. Malkin missed the final handful of shifts of that 1-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres out of precaution with respect to an injury to his right knee that had kept him out for 23 games prior.
Rodrigues (lower body) and Matheson (upper body) missed the final five and four games, respectively, of the regular season. Tanev (upper-body) has not played since April 3.
But during line rushes Tuesday, Tanev was in his familiar spot on the right wing of Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese. Matheson was on the left side of a pairing with Cody Ceci, and Malkin was centering Kapanen and Jason Zucker.
"We think (Malkin) will get better with each day that he's on the ice with each game that he plays," coach Mike Sullivan said. "That's what we've witnessed when we watched him back with the lineup the last four games."
Rodrigues was not on any of the four lines, but that is likely because coach Mike Sullivan would make him a healthy scratch in the event all his forwards were healthy and available. Frederick Gaudreau was on the right wing of a line with Jared McCann and center Jeff Carter.
Matheson wore an old-school caged mask as he has during other skates since he suffered his injury.
Tuesday's practice lasted more than an hour. Sullivan was expected to address reporters at its conclusion.
Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .