Adam Hall - BJ Crombeen
Adam Hall - BJ Crombeen
The reigning NHL scoring champion and MVP reported he "feels pretty good" after going through an optional practice at the Penguins' suburban practice facility.
"It was good to practice on the ice today with the team and [absorb] contact a little bit," Malkin said in his first comments to the media since losing his balance and sliding violently into the boards during the third period of a win against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 22. "And I feel good now."
PITTSBURGH -- Poor James Neal. The winger lost his world-class former scoring champion center to injury.
The replacement? A world-class former scoring champion center.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin for Sunday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to an upper-body injury. As a result, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma bumped Neal, who is tied for the National Hockey League lead in goals, up onto a line with Sidney Crosby.
"James is an elite guy at getting open and finding areas, and that doesn't change who the centerman is," Bylsma said. "He's going to do that and that's what he's going to be able to do playing next to Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin."
Neal will begin Sunday's game on Crosby's right wing, with Chris Kunitz in his customary spot to Crosby's left.
Coach Dan Bylsma indicated they are encouraged Malkin's condition since crashing into the boards during Friday night's game is not as dire as previously reported.
"He will be continue to be evaluated by doctors tonight before the game," Bylsma said following the Penguins' morning skate in preparation for the matchup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "At this point in time, we have not ruled out a concussion. But I am happy to report that he has not been suffering from headaches or disorientation."
That is in contrast to a report from Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Saturday that cited multiple unnamed sources close to Malkin.
Asked to clarify his assertion that Malkin has not experienced headaches or disorientation, Bylsma said: "I mean at any point, yes."
The Lightning did not have a morning skate Sunday, but they are expected to stick with the same lineup that produced a 5-2 victory at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday -- with the exception of Lindback being back in goal.
PITTSBURGH -- Well into his third season of playing in North America, Jacob Markstrom has found his comfort level. A 2008 second-round pick of the Florida Panthers, Markstrom believes he's ready to make his mark in the National Hockey League.
Recalled from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio earlier this week, Markstrom reportedly will make his NHL season debut for the Panthers on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Florida coach Kevin Dineen was not available to confirm who will start in goal Friday for the Panthers, who are coming off a win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. The Miami Herald reported Thursday that Markstrom will be in goal against the Penguins. Dineen is expected to announce the starter 90 minutes before game-time.
Markstrom played seven of his eight NHL games last season, going 2-4-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. But he says he's a different goalie now than he was last season.
He hopes to show enough Friday night that he won't be a healthy scratch much more.
"Obviously, you want to play every night," said Jeffrey, a 2007 sixth-round pick of the club who turns 25 next week. "So it's an opportunity tonight, if I have a good game hopefully I can stay in the lineup. You want to play every night you don't like sitting out  out of  games [so far this season]."
Jeffrey likely will replace Joe Vitale as the center on the line with Glass and Adams. His game differs slightly from that of Vitale, who is smaller and quicker but doesn't possess the skill package the 6-1, 205-pound Jeffrey does.
PITTSBURGH -- The Philadelphia Flyers won't have to wait much longer for their leading goal-scorer from a season ago.
Wing Scott Hartnell was cleared to return to practice Wednesday and is on track to play in a game in a week to 10 days, general manager Paul Holmgren said. Hartnell missed his 15th consecutive game Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hartnell, who had a career-high 37 goals last season, has been recovering from a broken left foot sustained in a Jan. 22 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Holmgren also updated the status of injured defenseman Andrej Meszaros.
PITTSBURGH -- The dressing room is a different one because the old building across the street was torn down. But when Mark Eaton walked into the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room at Consol Energy Center, he felt right at home.
Eaton, a 35-year-old, 12-year NHL veteran, skated with the Penguins on Wednesday and will remain with the team he won the 2009 Stanley Cup with for at least the next few days.
Although Eaton did not sign a contract with Pittsburgh, he has spent the previous few weeks with the organization's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, playing in six games with the Baby Penguins.
"I've always expressed interest (in joining the Penguins), and there's some interest on the other side as well," Eaton said. "Other teams in the League and guys have been doing this -- unsigned and kind of skating with the team to have them get a look at them. Hopefully I can impress a little bit and end up here. That's the long-term goal."
I don't have a crystal ball. Predicting is a real complicated thing. If we stay healthy, have enough depth and get the good goaltending we think we're going to have, you can go all the way. But a lot of things have to happen. There's going to be a lot of teams that think the same thing. Everyone made deals. We're all are optimistic about where we'll end up.