RED WINGS (29-19-9) at PENGUINS (28-19-8)
TV: 7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SNP, FS-D, ROOT
PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin will likely not play against the Detroit Red Wings at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.
Malkin, sidelined since Feb. 2 with a lower-body injury, has resumed skating on his own but could miss a seventh consecutive game Thursday. After remaining in Pittsburgh during the Penguins' road trip to Carolina and Florida last weekend, Malkin did not participate in practice Wednesday and was absent during the optional morning skate Thursday.
Coach Mike Sullivan on Wednesday said Malkin has made progress and the next step will be for him to rejoin the team.
Most healthy players took part in the Thursday skate, with the exception of forwards Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz, but any changes to the lineup will not be known until pregame warm-ups. None are expected, and forward Matt Cullen should remain Pittsburgh's second-line center with Malkin out.
The Penguins have gone 3-1-2 without Malkin. Pittsburgh has averaged one goal per game in the past three games, beginning with a 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Feb. 10.
In those three games, the Penguins have earned four power plays. Sullivan said it's on the players to force the opposition into taking penalties, a quality Malkin possesses.
"We can do a better job forcing our opposition to defend us," Sullivan said. "That's when penalties occur. So, I think we, as a group, could do a better job in that regard."
Forward Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang failed to score in each of those three games after Crosby had scored in each of his previous 11 and Letang scored in 12 of his previous 15.
"This time of year is a grind," Crosby said. "The games are tough. Everyone's playing at a high level and the desperation is there."
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said the lineup will remain the same from a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. The Red Wings are without defensemen Niklas Kronwall (knee) and Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) Thursday.
"They're both day-to-day. I'd say Kronwall is closer than Ericsson," Blashill said. "I don't foresee Ericsson playing through the weekend here. I reserve the right to change that because it is a day-to-day injury and all of a sudden, he might feel a lot better. But Kronwall, I thought, had a full practice [Wednesday] and did a real good job in practice. We battled a bit. It was a fairly hard practice and he came out of it good."
Kronwall took part in a full practice Wednesday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Jan. 18. Blashill said Kronwall would skate on his own following the morning skate Thursday before practicing Friday, which will allow the Red Wings to determine his status for the weekend.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was first off the ice Thursday and is expected to start. The Red Wings counter with Petr Mrazek.
Here are the projected lineups:
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Dylan Larkin - Brad Richards - Tomas Tatar
Gustav Nyquist - Andreas Athanasiou - Tomas Jurco
Riley Sheahan - Luke Glendening - Darren Helm
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brendan Smith - Mike Green
Xavier Ouellet - Alexey Marchenko
Injured: Johan Franzen (concussion), Drew Miller (knee), Niklas Kronwall (knee), Jonathan Ericsson (lower body)
Scratched: Teemu Pulkkinen, Jakub Kindl
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin - Matt Cullen - Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl - Oskar Sundqvist - Bryan Rust
Scott Wilson - Kevin Porter - Conor Sheary
Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Trevor Daley - Brian Dumoulin
Ben Lovejoy - Derrick Pouliot
Injured: Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Beau Bennett (upper body), Nick Bonino (hand), David Warsofsky (concussion), Eric Fehr (lower body)
Scratched: Sergei Plotnikov, Ian Cole
Status report: Bonino (hand) and Warsofsky (concussion) are each progressing, Sullivan said Wednesday. Bonino has started to skate on his own and Warsofsky, who took part in the Thursday skate, has been cleared to take contact in practice.
Who's hot: Fleury has allowed three goals or less in each of his past four starts (2-1-1). He made 27 saves in Pittsburgh's 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday … Datsyuk has at least one point in each of his past six games and at least one goal in each of his past three. He had his 900th NHL point against the Boston Bruins on Sunday.