DALLAS – Not only will Evgeni Malkin
make his return to the Pittsburgh lineup on Wednesday night against Dallas, he will also have a new position.
Malkin, who sat out Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes with an undisclosed injury, will return to his natural center position against the Stars. He will play on a line featuring Matt Cooke
on his left side and Tyler Kennedy
on the right wing.
“Talking to Evgeni, he is completely comfortable with the switch and the responsibilities that come along with playing center,” said head coach Dan Bylsma following the morning skate on Wednesday. “It’s a little bit different mindset, but it’s not something that he hasn’t done in the past. He’s played wing and center before.”RELATED ARTICLE: Penguins Report: Game Day at Dallas
The 24-year-old superstar had spent the first 12 games of the season playing the right wing, but with Jordan Staal
breaking his hand in practice on Monday, an injury which will keep him sidelined an additional six weeks, Bylsma believes this is the perfect time to get Malkin back to the position he played for most of his first four seasons.
“During the first 12 games Jordan missed, we didn’t know when he would be coming back,” Bylsma said. “Now, with him being injured again, he is going to be out six weeks. We thought about this immediately when we knew Jordan wasn’t going to come out.”
While Bylsma was loathe to commit to using Malkin exclusively at center during the duration of Staal’s absence, he did strongly hint that it’s a good possibility that will be the case.
“I certainly don’t want it to be a situation where he is bouncing back and forth game to game,” Bylsma said. “Right now, with Mark Letestu playing very strong, having (Letestu) be the third-line center makes our third line strong in the middle winning draws. Having Evgeni on the top two lines as a center makes us look more like we have in the past.”
Bylsma says that having Kennedy available to take certain faceoffs in the right dot should help ease Malkin’s transition back to the middle.
“We’ve given him Tyler Kennedy
tonight,” Bylsma said. “He can take the draws on the right dot because that is his strong dot. You will see him take some draws there for ‘Geno’ depending on who (the Stars) throw into the circle.”