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Niskanen willing to play in pain

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By Josh Yohe
Sunday, April 15, 2012

Defenseman Matt Niskanen might play today in Game 3 against the Flyers, and suggested that he is willing to play even if doing so would risk further injury.

For Niskanen, playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs is personal.

The defenseman struggled mightily last season in the first-round loss against Tampa Bay. For 12 months, he has been hungry for postseason redemption.

An upper-body injury has prevented him from playing in the first two games of this series.

"It (stinks)," Niskanen said. "It's just killing me being in the press box. You play your butt off all year to be in this playoff series and trying to help your team any way you can, especially the way things are going right now. It really hurts to watch. I've got to get back when I can and have confidence that the guys can turn it around."

Niskanen admits that being down in the series shouldn't affect when he returns.

"In a perfect world, I'd say no," he said. "But there's no point in sitting out. Your back is against the wall. As soon as some of the things that are keeping me out are ready, I'll be back in there. A lot of players play through pain this time of year."

Risking further aggravation of his upper-body injury is a gamble Niskanen is willing to take.

"There's always a risk when you're coming back from an injury," he said. "Right now, it's just a matter of strength and being able to do what I need to do out there. Everyone plays through pain. That isn't going to be an issue."

Coach Dan Bylsma isn't sure whether Niskanen will play today.

"He needs to have the strength that he needs to play," Bylsma said.

Puck support drills

The Penguins practiced for about 40 minutes at Southpointe on Saturday. They worked on drills that should improve their puck support, something that has been a significant issue in the first two games against Philadelphia.

However, the Penguins did not practice special teams, which have struggled mightily in two games against the Flyers.

The one that got away

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been "left hung out to dry," according to many of his teammates, in the first two games against the Flyers. But there is one goal that he badly would like back.

Jaromir Jagr's game-winning goal in Game 2 came because of a bad rebound.

"I tried to smother the puck because our guys had been on the ice a long time," Fleury said. "But the puck bounced off my blade. I wasn't happy with that one."

Still healthy

Other than Niskanen, the Penguins remain healthy. Everyone who participated in the first two games of the series was on the ice for yesterday's practice.

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