Pittsburgh Penguins Gameday Skate: Paul Martin Gets In Line For Return


Feb 5, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin (7) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

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Although Evgeni Malkin and Marcel Goc remain out indefinitely with foot injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins saw stalwart defenseman Paul Martin return to practice Monday afternoon.

Martin hasn’t played for the Penguins since Feb. 7, as he suffered a broken hand while competing for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics. He joins fellow high-volume blueliner Kris Letang in the queue of sidelined players awaiting their turn to get back on the ice for game action.

Skilled winger Beau Bennett has reclaimed his spot in the lineup with aplomb, looking as sharp as ever in his first two games back, both of which were Penguins victories. But for as much as Bennett’s presence fills out the depth chart, seeing Martin don a game jersey should be even more of a turning point for a team still struggling to transition from defending to attacking in most situations.

Martin (and Letang) can help with that aspect, taking some of the offensive load off defensemen Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta. The Penguins don’t know when Letang will feel good enough in his stroke recovery to return, but Martin’s timetable is more definite.

Martin has ruled out coming back Tuesday as the Hurricanes pay a visit to Consol Energy Center, but he told the media Monday that he’s targeting Saturday’s game in his home state of Minnesota. If Martin does make an appearance against the Wild, he will have five matches to prepare for the playoffs.

Tonight’s Game: Penguins (48-22-5, 101 points – 1st Metropolitan) vs. Hurricanes (32-32-11, 75 points – 7th Metro) at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center
Faceoff: 7 p.m. ET
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh
Radio: 105.9 The X

Pittsburgh begins its third straight four-game week when Carolina comes to town. Tonight will mark the first time since March 4 at Nashville that the Pens face a team not in postseason contention – a span of 14 games.

The Penguins, 8-7-2 since the Olympic break, haven’t won three straight regulation games since mid-December, but they can do so with a 60-minute victory against the ‘Canes. Two points in the standings would also clinch a second division championship in a row.