The Penguins have been a limping team right now. Pittsburgh has lost four straight games, mostly due to the fact that six regulars are currently out of the lineup, including half of their defensive unit.
But even with 30 percent of their lineup sidelined, the Penguins aren’t making any excuses. And while the injuries seem to keep mounting for Pittsburgh, there is some glimmer of hope.
Forward Evgeni Malkin
, the reigning NHL scoring champion and playoff MVP, looks to be on the cusp of returning to the lineup after sitting out the past two weeks with a shoulder strain.
Malkin will take part in the team’s Saturday morning skate and hopes to be back on the ice when the Penguins host the Boston Bruins at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.
“(My shoulder) feels great,” Malkin said. “It’s not sore, no pain. We’ll see (Saturday) at the morning skate. Maybe I’ll be playing. (Saturday) is a big day for me. We’ll see after practice how my shoulder feels and if it feels good then I’ll play.”
And Malkin's return should be a boost to the Penguins and possibly a spark for them.
"You are adding the point leader from last year and a playoff MVP," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "It is certainly another weapon. It is not only the points, the speed and how he plays with the puck. There is a work ethic there. He is a guy who leads the league in takeaways as well. There is a tenaciousness that he brings to the game that adds not just in the point totals."
"He’s going to help big time in that area," captain Sidney Crosby
said. "He’s going to give us a big offensive punch for sure, but I think at the same time we all need to find ways to contribute out there."
“He’s a great offensive player and gives us depth,” Ruslan Fedotenko said. “We can use help offensively. We haven’t been scoring a lot of goals lately. Hopefully it will give us a spark and we’ll score some goals and be the offensive team that we are known for.”
Malkin, who practiced Friday on a line with Sidney Crosby
and Fedotenko, was given two weeks to rest his ailing shoulder. He started skating last Saturday in San Jose, a session that was supposed to last 20 minutes but Malkin stayed on the ice for an hour, and was cleared for contact Wednesday. The time off has allowed him time to rest and he should be fresh when he returns to the ice.
“My body is ready and I’m ready to play,” Malkin said. “I hope I play (Saturday). I feel great. I missed seven games. I’m excited to get back. I supported my team in the locker room and on the bench. I miss playing and skating. I’ve been working out and a couple weeks of rest and I feel great. I think I’m 100 percent.”
“He’ll be nice and fresh with his legs behind him,” Fedotenko said. “He’s a great instinct player. He goes in the area and see openings. He creates chances, scores some goals and for any rebounds we will be there. I think it will definitely help a lot.”
And despite missing two weeks of action, the Penguins expect Malkin to log the same workload and play at the same level as he did before the injury.
"I expect him to be right there, the way he’s practiced the last few days," Crosby said. "I think your timing always takes a couple games, but I don’t see it being, maybe a game or two, or maybe there’s certain points over the first few games where it feels like he needs his timing, but I think consistently he’s going to be fine."
"He was sore for a number of games prior to making the decision to get some rest and eliminate the pain from his game," Bylsma said. "He has still been able to skate and work out pretty well so I expect him to have a lot of jump and feel better than he did when he stopped playing."
“My condition is the same as normal,” Malkin said. “I’m trying to play hard and play how I played before. If I play (Saturday) I will play a full shift and (feel) 100 percent. I’ve skated for a few days and I feel great."
“There’s no pressure on me. My shoulder’s not sore. I’m ready.”