There were some indications at practice Friday at Southpointe that there could be lineup changes for the Penguins in Game 5 tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Consol Energy Center.
Marcel Goc, who has been out since injuring an ankle March 27, centered the fourth line with wingers Tanner Glass and Craig Adams, an indication he could be ready to return.
“I feel good. We’ll see if Coach puts me in or not,” said Goc, who was acquired from Florida at the March 5 trade deadline.
Joe Vitale shifted from fourth-line center to right wing on the third line with Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter.
Early in practice, there were some tweaks to the defensive pairings. While Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin remained together, Rob Scuderi was with Matt Niskanen, and Olli Maatta was with Kris Letang. Those last two pairings are a switch from what the Penguins mostly have used lately, although there has been some in-game shuffling since this first-round series started.
Things got more mixed when Orpik left practice early. Orpik was not available for comment, and Bylsma declined to address Orpik’s reason for leaving or status.
Winger Brian Gibbons, who was playing on the top line before he left Game 2 because of an apparent shoulder injury, skated before practice, then returned to the ice with his teammates. He did not participate on one of the top four lines during line rushes.
More about Fleury’s play
Scuderi and Letang were the defensemen on the ice in the final minute of regulation in Game 4 Wednesday when Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury went behind his net to play a puck that had been rimmed around by the Blue Jackets. The puck bounced over Fleury’s stick, leading to a tying goal in what became a 4-3 overtime loss.
Although Bylsma said Thursday that leaving the crease was the wrong play for Fleury because the puck skimmed along the glass, not along the boards, Scuderi and Letang were expecting that play.
“Usually, you hope for your goalie to come out and at least give you some help,” Scuderi said. “I don’t think it was pretty bouncy until after it hit off the stanchion on the glass. At that point, he’s already out of the net. It stinks. Sometimes, that’s just the way it bounces.”
Letang said something similar can happen to any player and that he was comfortable with whichever way Fleury would have chosen to act on the play.
“It’s standard,” he said of a goalie playing the puck behind the net. “It’s a decision. On the ice, you [make] a decision, and you have to live with it. He felt comfortable going there. It’s his play. I have to respect him for doing that. Often [when] he’s playing the puck, he’s saving me from getting hit. He makes plays.
“It’s a bad bounce. I’m sure he’ll bounce back from it. Nothing to worry about.”
Fleury said he didn’t act based on whether the puck was coming off the glass or the boards.
“I don’t think there’s a strict rule,” he said.
Hitting could take toll
Playing the body as often as possible has been an integral part of Columbus’ approach since the earliest shifts of Game 1.
Part of the rationale for being so physical is that it can wear down opponents over the course of a series.
So, while the Blue Jackets’ hitting doesn’t seem to have affected the Penguins to this point, it could become a factor over the next two or three games.
“As the series goes on, it can take a toll,” Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said. “Hitting has its ebbs and flows during a game.
“Sometimes, there’s more; sometimes, there’s less. [But] that’s their game plan, what they’re trying to do.”
Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who missed the past two games because of an unspecified injury from a hit by Vitale, was a full participant in Blue Jackets practice. … Columbus gave goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and center Brandon Dubinsky the day off from practice. ... Before Friday, nine of the 31 playoffs games featured a team overcoming a multigoal deficit to win. That’s a record for the first round and surpasses the total for the full 2013 postseason. The Penguins and Blue Jackets account for four of those nine.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @MolinariPG.