Satan, Boucher add punch for Penguins
The only games defenseman Philippe Boucher and winger Miroslav Satan had been playing at the outset of these playoffs were post-practice versions of 3-on-3.
That's how guys who aren't dressing for games try to stay conditioned and involved, scoring goals in empty arenas that no one ever sees.
Monday night against Carolina in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, Boucher and Satan scored goals that mattered, delighting another Mellon Arena sellout crowd and helping the Penguins to a 3-2 victory.
Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday night at Mellon Arena.
Satan's first goal of the playoffs opened the scoring at 9:17 of the first period.
Boucher's first of the playoffs at 11:33 of the third re-established the two-goal lead the Penguins would need to outlast the 'Canes.
"Playing 3-on-3 and doing laps at the end of practice is not the most fun, but when you haven't played much all year long it's what you need to do," Boucher said. "You hope you're put in a situation where you can help the team down the road.
"I wasn't sure what my role was going to be a few weeks ago. I'm not sure every night. I didn't know I was going to play (Monday night) until warm-ups. When you can help the team win, I guess doing laps is worth it."
Satan not only lost his spot in the lineup during the regular season, he was banished to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the trade deadline before being recalled just before the start of the playoffs.
"Always, when we weren't playing, we tried to have fun in practice and wait for our opportunity," Satan said. "An opportunity came for both of us and we're trying to make the best of it.
"Definitely, it feels good for anybody who can contribute. Game by game the coaches are giving me more tapping on the shoulder, a little more trust. I'm trying to use the time on the ice as well as I can."
Both players are finally getting a regular opportunity now that the Penguins have used seven defensemen and 11 forwards over the past four games.
"Seven defensemen is an all right thing, I guess," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "In a perfect world, six (defensemen) is a situation I prefer more.
"But rarely are we in a perfect world."
Bylsma first resorted to such an imperfect improvisation for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington. With defenseman Sergei Gonchar out due to a knee injury, the Penguins went with Boucher and AHL call-up Alex Goligoski on the blueline for Games 5 and 6 against the Capitals.
The extra defenseman in the lineup made winger Pascal Dupuis the odd-man out up front and created an opening for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to double-shift occasionally as the fourth-line center between Craig Adams and Satan.
Gonchar returned and replaced Goligoski for Game 7 against the Capitals, and the lineup remained unchanged for Game 1 against Carolina.
In addition to being worked in periodically five-on-five, Boucher and Satan also see time on the second power-play unit.
Boucher also had an assist in Game 1 against the Hurricanes.
Satan's goal gave him four points in the four games the Pens have played with the seven-defensemen approach.
The two became the 14th and 15th Penguins players to register goals this postseason.
"We like to believe we're deep," Boucher said. "We have some good players who aren't playing right now."
Those are the guys currently tearing it up after practice in 3-on-3.