The Pittsburgh Penguins have won four straight without Evgeni Malkin, so how good will they be with him back in the lineup?
They'll find out Friday, when the high-scoring center plays against the Buffalo Sabres. It'll be his first game since Jan. 18 due to a knee injury and a sinus infection.
Malkin has been practicing with the team for a few days, and coach Dan Bylsma on Thursday pronounced him healthy and ready to play.
It's good timing for the Penguins, because a team renowned for being deep in centers is running short in the position. Sidney Crosby is working his way back from a concussion, and the team announced Mark Letestu needs surgery on his left knee.
"Mark Letestu is scheduled for surgery and will be (out) approximately 4-6 weeks," Bylsma said. "I'm still not quite sure how he got the injury. It is involving his meniscus."
"Sidney Crosby is going out of town for a few days to visit his parents," Bylsma said. "He continues his functional rehab and light exercises."
A banged-up team had a lightly-populated practice Thursday, as defensemen Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang and forward Mike Rupp all sat out. However, Bylsma said he expects all three in the lineup Friday against the Sabres
"The players that were not on the ice today (Orpik, Letang and Rupp), we expect them to be back on the ice with us and available to play (Friday)," Bylsma said.
That list does not include forward Arron Asham, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.