The Pittsburgh Penguins have already been playing without captain Sidney Crosby, but they will also be without their other All-Star center against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Evgeni Malkin will not play against the Devils because of an undisclosed injury. Pittsburgh is expected to recall a center to take his place.
"[Malkin] will not be going on the trip with us for [Thursday's] game," Bylsma told reporters. "He's getting evaluated today. He's not feeling well and getting evaluated."
Malkin is third on the Penguins in goals with 15 and points with 37. He hasn't scored a goal in the past six games, or since Crosby went out with a concussion. The Penguins lost their first three games without the League's leading scorer, but have won three straight and trail the Philadelphia Flyers by three points for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
One of the reasons for Pittsburgh's surge is the return to form by the team's other top center, Jordan Staal. After making his season debut at the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals, Staal went pointless in his first five contests but has 3 goals and 6 points during the winning streak.
"We've had games with just Sid, and we've had games with just [Malkin]. And now we're going to go with just Jordan," Bylsma said. "Well we're going to be recalling a player to fill the void. It's going to be power-play minutes and a center position. It's going to be a bit of a challenge. Mark Letestu is going to have to play a bigger role. Chris Conner and lots of guys are going to have to play more minutes to fill the void of the 20 minutes and the position that [Malkin] plays for us on the ice."
Conner scored on a penalty shot for the Penguins in a 4-1 victory Tuesday against Detroit. He has 6 goals and 10 points in 30 games for Pittsburgh. Letestu has 9 goals and 19 points in 47 games, and signed a two-year, $1.25 million contract extension before the game against the Red Wings.
Bylsma said he "didn't have a feeling either way" about the potential for Malkin's injury to linger. After leading the NHL with 113 points in 2008-09, Malkin played in only 67 games last season and dealt with various injuries en route to a career-low 77 points.