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Malkin to miss Sunday's game against Islanders

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin won't play Sunday night, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are not worried that the reigning National Hockey League MVP has a concussion.

Coach Dan Bylsma ruled Malkin out of Sunday's game against the New York Islanders because of an upper-body injury. Malkin did not play the final 2:20 of regulation or during overtime of Pittsburgh's 5-4 shootout win in Toronto on Saturday night after absorbing a hit from the Maple Leafs' James van Riemsdyk.

"Evgeni Malkin will not play tonight," Bylsma said about 2 1/2 hours prior to the 7:08 p.m. faceoff with the Islanders. "He will get further evaluated tonight. I'll have an update after the game for you."

The Toronto game was Malkin's third back in the lineup a four-game absence due to a concussion sustained in the third period of a win against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 22.

Malkin took one shift Saturday after van Riemsdyk's check along the boards in the neutral zone with about five minutes to play in regulation. Television cameras showed him telling Penguins training staff, "I'm alright" while on the bench.

After the game, Bylsma said Malkin was held out of overtime and the shootout for "precautionary" reasons.

Asked Sunday if there was any concern that the newest ailment was a flare-up of Malkin's concussion, Bylsma said, "That is not a concern, no. Just an upper-body injury."

Malkin complained of temporary short-term memory loss after the Feb. 22 collision with the boards behind the Florida net.

Malkin, however, was symptom-free within 48 hours and remained so for a week before being cleared to play. He had a goal and two assists in the three games since -- all Penguins victories.

With Malkin out, Brandon Sutter slots into the No. 2 center role between James Neal and rookie Beau Bennett. Dustin Jeffrey moves up from the fourth line to center Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, and Joe Vitale joins the lineup and will skate with Craig Adams and Tanner Glass.

"I think (Sutter) played maybe his best game in Montreal in the absence of Evgeni, and we're going to need that again tonight," Bylsma said. "Joe Vitale is going to step in as well. We're going to need the second and third lines to play bigger roles, more prominent roles. Maybe look at a checking role against the top line of the other team and do a job, have guys step up in our lineup today."

The Atlantic Division-leading Penguins went 2-2 without Malkin. At 17-8-0 overall, they entered Sunday trailing the Montreal Canadiens by two points in the race for the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

A two-time Art Ross Trophy winner, Malkin has 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 21 games this season.

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