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Penguins lose Letestu, but Malkin nearing return

by Dan Rosen /
NEW YORK -- The Penguins lost another center Tuesday morning when Mark Letestu got his skate caught in a rut and went down with a lower-body injury. Letestu, who was skating in Sidney Crosby's spot between Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, is being sent back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation and Eric Godard will be inserted into the lineup against the Rangers.

That's the bad news for the Penguins. The good news could come Wednesday when it's possible that Evgeni Malkin makes his return to the injury-riddled lineup when they play the Islanders at Consol Energy Center.

"It's not out of the question," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Malkin, who has missed the last three games with a sinus infection, skated Tuesday morning at Madison Square Garden for over an hour, both with his teammates and after they left the ice. For the second straight day he said he felt good.

"It's my second skate and I skated hard," Malkin told "There's no pressure to play tomorrow, but I feel alright and tomorrow after the skate we'll see, maybe."

Malkin said the hardest part about being out is dealing with the symptoms associated with his sinus infection.

"It's my head, it's been sore for a couple of days, and it's new for me because I've never had this symptom," he added.

The news is almost all good on the Rangers' end. Ryan Callahan, who has missed the last 19 games with a broken hand, will return to the lineup Tuesday night. So, too, will defenseman Dan Girardi, who has missed two games with sore ribs. Leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky, who has missed five games with a stress fracture in his leg, will be a game-time decision.

Dubinsky told Newsday that X-rays taken on his leg Tuesday morning were "clean" and he had no pain, but he also said he didn't want to speculate. Rangers coach John Tortorella will likely make an announcement on Dubinsky's status one way or the other when he meets with the media at 5:20 Tuesday night.

Malkin's return will obviously be welcomed by his teammates, but first they have to deal with the Rangers without three of their centers. Letestu's injury will give Dustin Jeffrey an opportunity to play bigger minutes both in the top six and on the first power-play unit.

Jeffrey, who was called up from the AHL on Monday to join the team in New York, has 2 goals and 2 assists in seven games this season. He's been recalled and reassigned a combined 11 times since Dec. 10, prompting some of the Penguins to joke that he is the most traveled man in pro hockey over the last two months.

"It does happen to guys in that situation where you do get reassigned and called back up," Bylsma said. "From Dustin's standpoint he's happy to have traveled last night to get here and have the opportunity tonight. Hopefully it turns into a bigger opportunity for him."

Jeffrey played in the Penguins final three games before the All-Star break, and his ice time did increase to more than 10 minutes per game. He's on a two-game points streak.

"The last three games I've played more minutes and more minutes, and given who is out of the lineup now I've been given more opportunity," Jeffrey told "Being in my situation, coming into my third year, this is really when you have to make a big impression so over the summer and into next season they know what you can do and they can pencil you in. I'm really just going to try to seize the moment and make good on the opportunity that will be presented tonight."

As for Letestu, who has 20 points in 51 games this season, Bylsma said he really wasn't sure how he hurt himself and there will be no update on his status until after he gets reevaluated in Pittsburgh.

"It's just another challenge for us to face, and I think it'll be a good one for Dustin Jeffrey," Bylsma said. "He's going to get increased playing time. He's a guy who has had a good seven games for us and he'll get a good opportunity with the players he's playing with and the ice time he'll get tonight."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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