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Malkin waiting until shoulder is '100 percent' to return

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Saying he will not return to the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup until his injured shoulder feels 100 percent, Evgeni Malkin will not play Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The reigning NHL MVP and scoring champion will miss his eighth consecutive game.

"I'm out until I'm 100 percent," Malkin said after participating in another morning skate with the team Sunday. "No rush. I have a workout program with my doctor and (Penguins strength and conditioning coach) Mike Kadar. I played a little in the corners today. It's still a little sore, but we will see next game."

The Penguins carry an 11-game winning streak into the game against the rival Flyers. Pittsburgh has won all seven of the most recent games Malkin has missed and is 9-2-0 without him this season.

The Penguins also will be without defenseman Kris Letang for the third game in a row. Despite missing five games this season, Letang still leads the League in scoring among defensemen (28 points in 27 games).

"Any time you get players back, it's exciting -- but when they're players like [Malkin and Letang], huge parts of our team, it's huge for us," forward James Neal said. "The faster they get back, the better."

Pittsburgh hasn't played like a team that misses its two-time Art Ross Trophy-winning center and Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman. The Penguins have a three-point lead on the Montreal Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference standings, and have a 12-point lead in the Atlantic Division.

"We're trying to do our best without them," captain Sidney Crosby said. "But certainly, whenever they're ready, we will welcome them back."

Malkin has not played since a 5-4 shootout win in Toronto on March 9. He took one shift after absorbing a hit into the boards by the Leafs' James van Riemsdyk late in the third period, and he has been out with what the team has called an upper-body injury since.

The Maple Leafs game was the third back for Malkin after he sat out four because of a concussion. With the team playing so well, facing a compressed schedule over the next month and the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to begin in about five weeks, Malkin said he is not going to rush things.

"Just until there's no pain in my shoulder because my conditioning is good and my body is ready to play," Malkin, who has five goals and 19 assists in 21 games this season, said. "I'm sore in the shoulder, but when [that's gone], I'm ready to play.

"Every day it's better, for sure. I'll still not play [Sunday] -- but maybe the next game. Today was a very good day.

Pittsburgh plays the second game of its season-high five-game homestand Tuesday against the Canadiens.

"The team is playing good; I like to watch it, but I want to come back and help my team," Malkin said. "It's unbelievable how the team's playing -- the whole team is playing unbelievable. It's been exciting to watch."

Letang joined Malkin with their teammates for the morning skate, albeit not in the full capacity each would when healthy. Letang's status is less clear since he left a win against the Boston Bruins on March 17 at the end of the first period.

Through it all, though, the Penguins have kept winning. They received some good news Sunday when forward Tyler Kennedy was pronounced ready to play after missing a win at the New York Islanders on Friday because of illness.

Here is how the Penguins' lineup likely will look:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Beau Bennett - Dustin Jeffrey - James Neal

Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy

Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Mark Eaton - Matt Niskanen

Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tomas Vokoun

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), Kris Letang (lower body)

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Trevor Smith

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