Hockey

Pens Hornqvist, Preds Fisher return for Game 1

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Veteran forward Patric Hornqvist will return to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday night after missing time with an unspecified injury.

The 30-year-old Swede hasn’t played since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Ottawa Senators, but Penguins coach Mike Sullivan confirmed he would be back against the Nashville Predators and was 100 percent healthy.

“I don’t think we ease anybody into the lineup,” Sullivan said. “When our guys go into the lineup, they’re ready to play. Period.”

Hornqvist did not participate in Pittsburgh’s optional skate before Game 1 but he did practice Sunday, leading to speculation he could be close to a return. Sullivan would not reveal who would sit to make room for Hornqvist in the lineup.

A former member of the Predators, Hornqvist has four goals and seven points in 13 games this postseason. He proved to be a crucial part of Pittsburgh’s championship run last season, finishing second to Phil Kessel with nine playoff goals. He also scored the empty-net goal that secured Pittsburgh’s Cup-clinching 3-1 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup finals.

“He brings a lot. He’s definitely an energy guy. He brings a lot of character into the room. I think he’s a guy who boosts our energy on and off the ice,” Penguins forward Conor Sheary said before news of Hornqvist’s return was revealed. “He has that compete level that is just kind of contagious. If we get him back that would be a huge boost for us.”

Nashville will likely also welcome the return of an important veteran for Game 1 as captain Mike Fisher appears ready to go after dealing with an undisclosed injury. After missing the final two games of the Western Conference finals against the Anaheim Ducks, the veteran center is the only Predators player with prior Cup finals experience and has been practicing on a line with James Neal and Viktor Arvidsson.

“Ready to rock. Excited about Game 1,” Fisher told the Tennessean.

Nashville is in dire need of a healthy center after Ryan Johansen was lost for the remainder of the postseason with a hip injury.

Forward Craig Smith, who has been dealing with a lower-body injury, could also return for the Predators. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette wouldn’t provide any details about his Game 1 lineup, only saying that “everybody on the trip is available.”

“I don’t think we ease anybody into the lineup,” Sullivan said. “When our guys go into the lineup, they’re ready to play. Period.”

Hornqvist did not participate in Pittsburgh’s optional skate before Game 1 but he did practice Sunday, leading to speculation he could be close to a return. Sullivan would not reveal who would sit to make room for Hornqvist in the lineup.

A former member of the Predators, Hornqvist has four goals and seven points in 13 games this postseason. He proved to be a crucial part of Pittsburgh’s championship run last season, finishing second to Phil Kessel with nine playoff goals. He also scored the empty-net goal that secured Pittsburgh’s Cup-clinching 3-1 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup finals.

“He brings a lot. He’s definitely an energy guy. He brings a lot of character into the room. I think he’s a guy who boosts our energy on and off the ice,” Penguins forward Conor Sheary said before news of Hornqvist’s return was revealed. “He has that compete level that is just kind of contagious. If we get him back that would be a huge boost for us.”

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