Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay while he undergoes further health evaluation, according to head coach Dan Bylsma.
Malkin left in the third period of the Penguins’ 3-1 victory Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center after sliding hard into the end boards. He did not return to the game and did not participate in the team’s optional practice at Southpointe Saturday.
“He’s still being evaluated as to the extent of the hit and going into the boards hard,” Bylsma said. “That’s an ongoing process at this point in time.”
Bylsma said the Penguins are following the NHL protocol for testing.
“There’s nothing to expect from this point,” Bylsma said. “He’s getting evaluated. We’re waiting to see how he feels and reacts. He went into the boards pretty darn hard. We’re not expecting any timeline to the injury or anything.”
Malkin was skating with speed toward the goal when he collided with Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Malkin fell onto his back and slid hard into the end boards. He remained on the ice for a while, being attended to by head athletic trainer Chris Stewart. Malkin got to his feet and skated of his own accord to the bench and headed to the locker room.
In Malkin’s absence, the Penguins will adjust their lineup for Sunday. The team will elevate its centers with Brandon Sutter assuming Malkin’s spot between Beau Bennett and James Neal, Dustin Jeffrey centering Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, and Joe Vitale filling the role on the fourth line.
"Dustin Jeffrey will be a third-line center role with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy," Bylsma said Friday after the game. "Brandon will play with James Neal and Beau Bennett."
Malkin is the NHL’s reigning scoring champion and MVP following a 50-goal, 109-point season in 2011-12. He torched the NHL last season after offseason rehab from a knee injury that cost him nearly half of the 2010-11 season.
Note: Penguins held an optional skate at Southpointe. Thirteen players took part in the skate, forwards Dustin Jeffrey, Beau Bennett, Joe Vitale, Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, Craig Adams and Zach Boychuk, defensemen Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Mark Eaton (non-roster player) and goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun.