-- This is becoming uncomfortably familiar to the Pittsburgh Penguins
-- no Sidney Crosby
, no Evgeni Malkin
Malkin, who is recovering from season-ending knee surgery in February, will sit out the Penguins' home opener Tuesday against the Florida Panthers
(7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN2) with an undisclosed lower-body injury. He was held out of Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss in Edmonton with the same problem, one coach Dan Bylsma
said is not related to the knee injury.
Rather, Bylsma said Malkin is having "soreness," and it isn't a major worry, but it's obvious the Penguins don't want to take any chances with a player who tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee just eight months ago.
Center - PIT
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 3 | +/-: -1
Following a strenuous summer of work, and what he described as a full recovery from the surgery, Malkin had a standout training camp before getting a goal and an assist in victories against Vancouver and Calgary. Malkin was hurt during the 5-3 win against Calgary on Saturday.
Malkin tried skating during the pregame warm-ups in Edmonton, but was in obvious discomfort and did not play.
"We don't think it's long-term or anything other than (him) just being sore at this point," Bylsma said.
Malkin was on the ice during the Penguins' morning skate Tuesday, as was Crosby, but was not part of their game-day line combinations. Crosby, who still has not been cleared for contact in practice as he mends from a concussion that occurred in January, accidentally was knocked down by assistant coach Tony Granato
during a drill but said afterward he has had no concussion-related symptoms since training camp began Sept. 17.
"It’s never fun watching (games), but it's nice to be getting closer and it's nice being out there and going hard and I haven't had anything that's really worried me," said Crosby. "It's been nice to have had that the last couple of weeks."
Crosby will see his concussion specialists later this week -- he did not give a day -- as they continue to monitor his progress. The next step is for Crosby to be cleared for full contact during practice; after that, he hopes to be given the go-ahead to return to playing games.
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The last time Crosby played was Jan. 5, when a hit from Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman
left him with the concussion issues he's trying to get past.
Crosby, 24, usually meets at least once a week with Michael "Mickey" Collins, who heads the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concussion testing unit. Crosby said the sessions usually consist of him answering various questions and taking some concussion-related tests.
There wasn't any anticipation when the NHL season began last week that Crosby would be ready this soon, but his traveling with the team on its season-opening Western Canada trip could have led some fans to hope that comeback could happen soon.
"I mean, I'm closer than I was yesterday," Crosby said. "But I can't give you a date. I'd love to, trust me, give you a date I can come back and play, but right now, it's the same."
Teammates said the Crosby they've seen recently looks more and more like the No. 87 of old, and it is obvious they are growing eager for his return.
"He's looking great on the ice and he's making great strides to get back," said forward James Neal
, who is expected to play on Crosby's line once the Penguins' captain is healthy.
For now, Bylsma must try to win -- again -- without two of the NHL's most skilled offensive players. Since Malkin was hurt last season, about a month after Crosby left the lineup, the Penguins are 15-10-5 during the regular season.
"You can certainly draw on it -- you can understand that we can be good (without them)," Bylsma said. "At the same time, we're a long way removed from last year and that situation. This is a different group of guys, and we have to show we know how to play and play the right way to have success. That's a new challenge that's different from last year. So the experience, while you hopefully can draw upon it and understand the way we know how to play, the guys on this team need to establish that."
The Penguins also will be without defenseman Brooks Orpik
(sports hernia), who has yet to play this season. He aggravated the injury during training camp.