WASHINGTON -- Evgeni Malkin won't return to Pittsburgh's lineup until his bruised right foot is at least close to 100 percent, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said this morning from Verizon Center.
Malkin will miss his second straight game and fourth in the last five Wednesday as the Penguins try to re-take first place in the Atlantic Division against the Washington Capitals in a game that will be aired on the NHL Network (7 p.m. ET).
The Penguins are 3-7-0 without Malkin this season, and Sidney Crosby, who is tied for the League lead in goals with 45, hasn't scored in those 10 games.
"Geno (Malkin) is a guy who gets on a role and feels good about his game and is very productive in those time periods. We saw that last year in the playoffs," Bylsma said. "Right now we have a situation where he needs to get as close as he can get back to being healthy and 100 percent before he gets back on the ice. I don't have a target, but it's not a long-term situation at this point."
Malkin was injured 10 days ago in Tampa Bay when teammate Kris Letang's wayward slap shot struck him in the right foot. He missed games in New Jersey and Boston before playing more than 18 minutes and scoring a goal against Carolina on Saturday.
However, Malkin re-injured his foot late in the Carolina game and had to sit out Monday's 3-1 loss at Detroit. He did not participate with the Penguins in their morning skate at Verizon Center.
The Russian center is the team's second-leading scorer with 70 points in 63 games.
"Especially for younger players, when they're not feeling well physically it's harder for them to be on their game," Bylsma said. "For older guys, if they waited for their body to feel good they would never play good. As maturity level goes up you understand that a little more."
Perhaps it's just coincidence or maybe it's a result of it, but Crosby's two prolonged scoring slumps this season have come with Malkin either sidelined or hurting.
Crosby is on a five-game goal drought dating back to the game at Tampa Bay. He also went six games without a goal from Oct. 30-Nov. 10, when Malkin was out with a shoulder injury.
"I don't think a lot changes," Crosby said when asked what is different for him when Malkin is out. "Most teams, either he or I are going to see their top (defensemen), especially on the road. If anything, power play-wise we have played so long there together so it's a little bit of an adjustment, but other than that it's not like we're linemates."
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