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Evgeni Malkin won't play for Penguins on Sunday

Forward remains sidelined against Panthers with upper-body injury

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Forward Evgeni Malkin will miss a second game when the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Florida Panthers at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday (1 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SN, ROOT, FS-F, NHL.TV) but is not expected to be out long term.

Malkin practiced Saturday after missing a 6-4 win against the New Jersey Devils on Friday with a lingering upper-body injury.

He took full contact in practice Saturday and was left off each power-play unit but centered a line between left wing Phil Kessel and right wing Patric Hornqvist.

"Every day is better," Malkin said. "I'm a little bit better. It's tough to play [Sunday]. Probably not. Just give me a little bit of time. Just wait a little bit, but it's like, no more blocking shots."

Malkin said the injury stems from a shot he blocked against the Calgary Flames on Monday.

Video: PIT@CGY: Malkin finishes off give-and-go for PPG

"I played [the next game] in [Philadelphia] and it's not too great," Malkin said of the Penguins' 4-0 loss Wednesday. "It's like pain is coming and I feel like I can't shoot because there's pain every time in my shoulder. … I don't block a lot, but we lost the puck in the neutral zone, they played in the offensive zone for a long time and I see the forward ready to shoot and I just try to block the shot. It's not perfect, but it's instinct."

Shortly after taking the ice for the Penguins morning skate Friday, Malkin gathered his sticks and went down the runway to the locker room. Following the skate, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin had been dealing with the injury for a while.

Sullivan said Friday he would provide more information on the severity of Malkin's injury Saturday. One day later, Sullivan sounded optimistic that Malkin won't be out much longer.

"I don't think it's a long-term thing," Sullivan said. "We'll see how he is in the morning, but this is going to be a day-to-day thing, but we're hopeful that he'll be back soon. … We don't want to see Geno get hurt, or any of our guys for that matter, but the nature of the game is that it's a belligerent game.

"We all run that risk anytime we lace up our skates."

The Penguins, who have 12 games remaining in the regular season, trail the Washington Capitals by three points for first place and are one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference.

Malkin joined a lengthy Pittsburgh injury list that includes defensemen Kris Letang (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand), Trevor Daley (knee) and Ron Hainsey (upper body), and forwards Carl Hagelin (lower body) and Bryan Rust (upper body). Rust, who has been out since Feb. 9, practiced in a red non-contact jersey Saturday.

Before his injury, Malkin had been Pittsburgh's most productive player in recent weeks. He has 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in his past seven games.

Video: PIT@EDM: Malkin scores off Oilers' miscue in 1st

Malkin has 39 points (21 goals, 18 assists) in his past 31 games, dating to Dec. 17. He is fifth in the NHL with 72 points and tied for fourth with 33 goals.

"I want to play, for sure, but it's a long season and now I'm trying to be ready for the playoffs," Malkin said. "When I start playing again, I'll be ready and I hope I come back soon and am ready because it's more important [with the playoffs coming up]."

Malkin missed seven games from Jan. 26-Feb. 11 with a lower-body injury.

This is the second consecutive season Malkin has been sidelined by an upper-body injury in mid-March. He missed the final 15 games of the 2015-16 regular season after being injured against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 11.

Malkin returned in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers and had 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games on the way to the championship.

"I hope next season there are no injuries and I can play a whole, full season," Malkin said.

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