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Malkin out long term for Penguins, lower-body injury not season-ending

Bjugstad also sidelined; absences create opportunities at center for McCann, Blueger, Kahun

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad each will be out long term for the Pittsburgh Penguins with a lower-body injury, coach Mike Sullivan said Monday.

Sullivan said he would expect Malkin to miss more time than Bjugstad. He also said he does not consider Malkin's injury to be season-ending.

Each center was placed on injured reserve Monday after being injured during a 7-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. Pittsburgh will play its first game without Malkin and Bjugstad against the Winnipeg Jets at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, TSN3, NHL.TV).

"Whenever players go down, it always provides an opportunity for someone else to step up," Sullivan said. "That's just the nature of our business. Fortunately, we have some guys that we can put into the center-ice position that have familiarity and a comfort level there."

Video: CBJ@PIT: Malkin leaves with injury in 2nd

Malkin left midway through the second period when he tripped over Penguins defenseman Kris Letang before tumbling into the boards. He stick-handled in the bench doorway for a few seconds while wearing street clothes before practice Monday.

Bjugstad was injured early in the third period.

The Penguins are already without Bryan Rust, who was the second-line right wing late in training camp before sustaining an upper-body injury when taking a shot to the hand in the final preseason game Sept. 28. Rust is expected to be out longer term.

Jared McCann, who had three points (two goals, one assist) against Columbus, moved from third-line left wing to center on the second line after Malkin left the game. He was there again with left wing Alex Galchenyuk and right wing Brandon Tanev during line rushes at practice.

"It should be easy. I grew up playing center," McCann said. "It doesn't matter. I just want to play. I've been given a great opportunity here. ... I feel like we have such a deep team here that you have to play the same way with everybody. Everybody's got that skill to them."

Galchenyuk had two assists after McCann replaced Malkin.

"I don't think I have to adjust," Galchenyuk said. "[McCann] is a good player, of course. ... He has all the great offensive instincts."

Teddy Blueger took over for Bjugstad at third-line center during practice.

Forward Dominik Kahun, who was acquired in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks on June 15, also could play center, Sullivan said. He was fourth-line right wing against Columbus.

The Penguins recalled forwards Sam Lafferty and Andrew Agozzino on an emergency basis from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Monday. It would be Lafferty's NHL debut if he plays against the Jets. Agozzino has five points (one goal, four assists) in 21 NHL games.

With Malkin absent, Pittsburgh used two defensemen (Justin Schultz and Letang) on the top power-play unit at practice. They joined forwards Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Galchenyuk.

Malkin, in his 14th NHL season, scored Pittsburgh's only goal on the power play in a 3-1 season-opening loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday before being held without a point against Columbus. The No. 2 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft had 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) and was an NHL career-worst minus-25 in 68 games last season.

The Hart Trophy winner voted as NHL MVP in 2012 has 1,003 points (392 goals, 611 assists) in 854 NHL games, all with the Penguins, and won the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

Bjugstad, chosen by the Florida Panthers with the No. 19 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, does not have a point in two games this season. He has 205 points (96 goals, 109 assists) in 428 NHL games.

After being acquired in a trade from the Panthers along with McCann for centers Riley Sheahan, Derick Brassard and three draft picks Feb. 1, Bjugstad had 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 32 games for the Penguins last season.

Tanev said he doesn't expect Pittsburgh's quality of play to drop much without Malkin or Bjugstad.

"You just continue to play your game," Tanev said. "You try to build chemistry and confidence with whoever you're out there with. Once you have a game plan and understand how to go about it, I think things become easier."

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