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Penguins still evaluating Malkin

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are not ruling out that star center Evgeni Malkin has a concussion, and the organization is following protocol to identify if he indeed does.

Coach Dan Bylsma indicated they are encouraged Malkin's condition since crashing into the boards during Friday night's game is not as dire as previously reported.

"He will be continue to be evaluated by doctors tonight before the game," Bylsma said following the Penguins' morning skate in preparation for the matchup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "At this point in time, we have not ruled out a concussion. But I am happy to report that he has not been suffering from headaches or disorientation."

That is in contrast to a report from Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Saturday that cited multiple unnamed sources close to Malkin.

Asked to clarify his assertion that Malkin has not experienced headaches or disorientation, Bylsma said: "I mean at any point, yes."

Malkin's neck jerked violently upon colliding back-first with the boards behind the Florida Panthers' net early in the third period of what ended up a 3-1 Pittsburgh victory Friday. Malkin was skating hard toward the net when defenseman Erik Gudbranson hit him, causing him to lose control.

The 2011-12 League MVP skated and walked to the locker room under his own power after spending several moments laying on the ice. The Penguins on Saturday ruled him out of the Tampa Bay game but have not publicly given any other timetable or prognosis.

Malkin is tied for ninth in the National Hockey League scoring race with 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 18 games. The 26-year-old won Art Ross trophies in 2009 and after last season, when his 50 goals and 59 assists in 75 games earned him the Hart Trophy as well.

He missed the final two months of the 2010-11 season because of a torn ACL. Malkin did have a concussion while playing in Russia in 2004 before being selected No. 2 in the NHL Draft by the Penguins later that year.

The Penguins are no stranger to superstar players being out with head injuries. Captain Sidney Crosby's 2010-11 season ended in January after absorbing hits in consecutive games.

Crosby said there's no need yet to have any in-depth discussions with Malkin about his experiences recovering from a head and neck injury.

"I've just asked him how he's doing; I'll probably give him a headache if I start explaining all the stuff that I went through," Crosby said. "Just as a teammate and as a friend, you're there to see how he's feeling, but I think it's a little too early for telling him my life story. I think it's just more of us being there for him, and we'll see.

"From what I heard he's feeling better today, so that's good to hear.

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