Malkin's return to lineup could come tonight against Islanders
By Denis Gorman, FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
NEW YORK — Lacking their two superstar centers for almost two weeks, the Penguins are close to having one return to the lineup for the stretch run.
Following the early skate at Madison Square Garden, Dan Bylsma hinted that Evgeni Malkin may dress against the Islanders tonight.
"It's not out of the question," Bylsma said when asked if Malkin could play against the Islanders. Bylsma added that he "had no timetable" for the center's return but it was "hopefully sooner rather than later."
Malkin, who has not played since a 4-1 win over Detroit on Jan. 18 because of a knee injury and sinus infection, skated with the team yesterday. He's looking forward to playing but does not feel burdened to come back.
"No pressure to play tomorrow, but (if) I feel all right tonight, then tomorrow morning skate and we'll see. Maybe," Malkin said. "We have a great team. I'm not pressured. Sid, too, we just wait (until he) feels 100 percent. When we come back to the lineup, we'll play the rest of the season and playoffs."
Malkin was adamant that it was his sinus infection keeping him from playing.
"It's my head. (It's been) sore a couple days," Malkin said. "It's new for me because I've never had (the) symptom before. My knee is 100 percent ready. It's not sore."
Malkin has 15 goals and 37 points in 42 games this season.
As the Penguins prepare to get one center back, another one went down.
Mark Letestu injured his knee while taking laps around the Madison Square Garden ice surface during the early skate. He was helped off the ice and was on crutches in the training room.
None of the Penguins saw what happened. Bylsma suggested that Letestu "hit a rut" on the ice and announced he was going to return "to Pittsburgh for further evaluation."
Dustin Jeffrey was promoted to the top line, between Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, and centered the first power-play unit.
"He's a guy who has had a good seven games for us," Bylsma said of Jeffrey. "He's going to get a real opportunity, both with the players he's playing with and the ice time.
"I know he's very excited about playing and showing what he can do at this level. Hopefully it turns into a bigger opportunity for him."
Bylsma noted that the organization would not have to rush someone up from AHL Wilkes-Barre, because Eric Godard was inserted into the lineup.
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Only four players were at the optional skate this morning, with Malkin and Lovejoy doing some heavy conditioning work. Tangradi was also another one of the players. Love that they have guys like him waiting in Wilkes-Barre, ready to step up.
And seriously, I thought the Pens had it bad on the injury front...the Isles already struggling defense is about as depleted (for pretty much the rest of the season) as you can get.
D Mark Eaton, hip surgery (will miss remainder of season)
RW Trent Hunter, torn left MCL (indefinitely)
G Nathan Lawson, strained MCL (early February)
D Milan Jurcina, upper-body (up to four weeks)
D Mike Mottau, hip surgery (will miss remainder of the season)
D Mark Streit, torn left labrum and rotator cuff (up to six months)
C Doug Weight, back spasms (indefinitely)