Center Evgeni Malkin missed the Penguins' three regular-season games against Boston, all wins, because of injuries. So maybe he can sneak up on the Bruins in the Eastern Conference final, which opens tonight at Consol Energy Center.
Malkin smiled at that suggestion, but he wasn't biting.
"It's a physical team, very fast, always a tough team," he said of Boston after practice Friday.
"But we beat them three times this year. I watched all three games. I hope I help my team win again."
Malkin led the playoffs in scoring and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Coach Dan Bylsma said he remembers that Malkin hit his stride in the conference final.
Through two rounds this season, Malkin is tied with teammate Sidney Crosby for second in playoff scoring with 16 points, but he also had a few costly mistakes.
"I had a couple of turnovers in the first round," Malkin said. "I think I played a little bit better in the second round. Every game, I feel so much better, so much confidence. Right now, I am so excited to play [tonight]."
One thing that doesn't thrill him is the prospect of being on the ice with 6-foot-9 Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara.
"Chara will play against Sid, I think," Malkin said, adding that if he draws Chara, "I hope not a lot.
"He's big and strong. But, if we play [the puck] a little bit deep behind him, we have a chance. I can use my speed and maybe shoot a little bit more, but just play my game."
Crosby said he and Malkin both should expect to be defended by Chara.
"He's always out there," Crosby said. "He plays a lot of minutes. I wouldn't be surprised to see him playing against both of us at different times depending on the situation."
Some benefits to time off
The Penguins had a mix of days off and practice over their down time of more than a week between series -- a layoff that was longer than their preseason training camp, thanks to the lockout.
In fact, for the Penguins, it was a bit like training camp II, with time devoted to a lot of details when they were on the ice.
"It has allowed both teams to take some rest days away from the rink and also have some practice time," Bylsma said. "We have had some kinds of practice that we hadn't had in a long time."
Bylsma called Friday "a revisit day," spent on some reminders of things the team has done in preparation for the Bruins.
"We covered a lot of stuff," Crosby said of the extra practices. "Both teams should be well prepared."
The time off has allowed some players to recover from nagging problems.
Malkin, for example, said his " 'small injury' feels a little bit better right now." It's believed his shoulder was bothering him.
Winger Chris Kunitz got an unspecified injury in the Ottawa series, and he took a couple of practices off earlier this week.
When cameras and recorders weren't running, several players griped about the layoff as the week dragged on.
But it beat bowing out after one or two rounds as they did each of the previous three years.
"If you have six or seven days off, you complain about that," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. "If you only have two days off, you complain about that.
"Where we've been the past few years, I'm not complaining about anything because we're still playing."
Adjusting to shield's absence
Crosby removed the extra shield protecting his surgically repaired jaw after the Penguins dispatched Ottawa in the second round. He laughed when asked if he feels liberated after practicing all week without it.
"I wouldn't go that far," he said.
"I definitely feel much better than I did with the full-face [protection]. It took a few days to get the courage to go to the front of the net, get in the battles, things like that.
"Now I don't even notice it. It feels like it always has. I'm glad we had a good solid week to get used to it."
No New England connections
The Penguins' lineup was sprinkled liberally with players hailing from the greater Boston area when they faced the Bruins in the Wales Conference final in 1991 and 1992. Kevin Stevens was on the list. Tom Barrasso, too. And Phil Bourque. Scott Young. Peter Taglianetti. Paul Stanton. Shawn McEachern.
This time not a single member of the Penguins' 28-man major-league roster hails from New England. Their eight U.S.-born players come from California (Brooks Orpik, Beau Bennett), Minnesota (Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Eric Hartzell) New York (Brandon Sutter), Delaware (Mark Eaton) and Missouri (Joe Vitale).