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Penguins Report: Malkin Out 2-3 Weeks

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin will miss 2-3 weeks with a strained shoulder. See 12:35 PM entry for details.

2:43 PM:
Tom Mast went around the locker room after today's practice. Here is a sampling of some of the things he heard:

Sidney Crosby
On continuing to rack up the wins:
We’ve played some good hockey, had a few hiccups, but responded well after losses. That’s a big key. You’ve got to bounce back. You want to string wins together as much as you can. They all add up. It’s been a good start so far.
On if he senses something special at the start of the season:
I think it’s a little early for that. I think last year’s always a great thing to look back on, as far as lessons learned. You can look at it the other way. We had a really tough few months, especially the first half of the season. We managed to turn things around. Things can change in a hurry both ways. I think it’s important to realize that. But we’re certainly happy with the way we are playing. The main thing is that we focus on making sure we improve. As the season goes on we need to improve. Other teams will improve. That’s got to be our mindset.
On big game against Montreal:
It was fun. It’s great when you can put the puck in the net and get some chances and generate a lot of offense. Our line did a really good job of that. I think, as far as our team’s concerned, we played the way we wanted to. We made it tough on them. When you make it tough on other teams, usually it’s a lot more fun to play that way. It was a big win and we’ll look to build off of it here.

Brooks Orpik
On team playing well:
We’ve definitely had a good start here. It’s something that we’re just trying to get better every game. Wednesday was a pretty complete game from everybody for all 60 minutes, even with a couple guys out of the lineup. It’s a tough stretch of games here, three in four nights, but our focus will be there Friday and Saturday.
On playing with confidence:
It’s always a little more fun when you’re winning. So naturally you have a little bit of a swagger, a little extra confidence going into games. For the most part, we have a good record, but I think it’s far from our best hockey. We’ve been really good at times, but consistency hasn’t always been there for 60 minutes. Last night was probably as close as we’ve been to a complete game. There’s lots of room for improvement, no matter what our record is.
On Columbus game:
They’ve got a young team like we have the past couple years, a lot of good young guys there. And obviously (Steve) Mason’s a good goalie, and (Mathieu) Garon, who we all know from last year, a good backup goalie there. It’s a tough building to play in. We had a pretty competitive one there last year. It’s a team that plays pretty similar to us so it should be a pretty good game.

Ruslan Fedotenko
On team winning:
It’s a great start. I can’t complain. But I feel like it doesn’t matter how you start it’s how you finish. I think we need to bring consistency to our game and make sure we play our game every game and elevate our game. So by the end of the season we’ll be playing our best.
On system:
We have a good system. Everybody believes in it. We just stick to it and good things happen.

Marc-Andre Fleury
On goalies being ‘fair game’ behind the net:
When the goalie goes back there he’s going for the puck, so he can’t really fight back.
On fast start for the team:
Our goal is to win. Our goal is to get a good place in the standings. It’s been going well.
Hopefully we can keep it the same and try to be constant.
On playing three games in four nights:
I think you get a little more tired, just with the traveling. We’re just going to try to keep it simple and play our game.
On defense this year:
It’s been pretty awesome. They’ve been playing so well. I know they’ve been working hard in practices and games, to dive in front of shots, to block some shots for me. I think we’re able to move the puck out of the zone pretty quickly. They’re able to find each other, and not get trapped in our zone.

Chris Bourque
On playing with Fedotenko, Malkin:
Playing with guys like Fedotenko and Malkin, it always makes things a lot easier. I thought we played pretty good as a line and the team had a great game for us.
On team system:
We don’t really want to be in our own zone defensively. It’s always trying to get it out and get it back in the offensive zone and get some chances. There’s a lot of speed on this team and a lot of skill. That really works in our favor. It’s definitely a fun system to play.
On his confidence level:
It’s unbelievable. The caliber of players we have here is unbelievable. We’ve got a pretty good record so far. We’ve definitely got to keep it going.
On Kunitz:
It’s awesome. He’s a great player. It was nice to see him get one. He does so many other things that help his team out. He’s definitely going to get his goals.

Mike Rupp
On goal scoring this year:
I’ve been given confidence to play and I’m allowed to try to make plays. I’m playing with a great group of guys. Our system is to go north-south and create offense, so I was able to benefit from it.
On moving to center in the Montreal game:
I’ve actually played more center over my career than wing. I’m going to do want they want me to do. It’s really no adjustment.
On playing ‘complete game’ against Montreal:
I think so. We came out and established ourselves early and we stuck with our game through 60 minutes. We’ve been winning a lot of hockey games this year. I feel like we played the full 60 Wednesday night.
On Columbus game:
That’s a team that’s winning hockey games too. It’s a good club. It’ll be a nice little test for us on the road after being home for a while. We’re looking forward to getting out there and trying to get two points.
On Steve Mason:
He’s a guy that competes. He moves real well in his crease. It’s someone that you want to get to early. I think that if we can have one of our games where we can get 35-plus shots our chances are pretty good.
On fast start:
It’s definitely a promising start, but the hockey season’s a long year. Every year you see some teams come out of the gates with a little bit of vengeance, and then they tail off. That’s something we’re not interested in doing.  We’re going to do everything we can to maintain what we’ve got going. I think right now we’ve got a good mindset. It’s a little cliché saying one game at a time, but I really feel that’s how we’re looking at it. We’ve got one game tomorrow night, Columbus, and then we’ll go from there.

2:00 PM:
Chris Kunitz mentioned after the game against the Canadiens that his line with Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin was trying to focus on keeping the third-man high lower in the attacking zone to better jump on loose pucks and sustain a longer forecheck.

“We think we created more turnovers tonight because we weren’t keeping that third man so high,” Kunitz said on Wednesday night. “We were kind of bouncing and jumping forward on opportunities – getting pucks to guys that were open and capitalizing when we had a chance to put the puck in the net.”

Crosby agreed with his left winger’s assessment when broached about the subject after practice on Thursday.

“It’s just something over a period of the start of the season that there were certain points where we watched video and it seemed like there were times we could have kept plays alive and kept teams trapped a little more,” Crosby said. “Even on two of the goals (Wednesday) night we got the time in zone. That’s all the reads from the forwards keeping plays alive.”

Crosby said that such a strategy was not something they talked about specifically against the Canadiens, nor were there any weaknesses in Montreal’s zone coverage that were exposed on tape. Instead the line was more focused on getting back to the way they want to play in the offensive end against any opponent after maybe getting away from it a bit the couple games prior to facing Montreal.

“I think that’s something that was kind of a reoccurring thing,” Crosby said. “There were times when we could have kept pucks alive or kept teams in, but we kind of backed off a little bit and played it safe.”

As a line they generated plenty of attack time on Wednesday, enough to be able to combine for four goals, six assists and 13 shots on goal. After their ’09-10 breakout performance, much will be asked of the unit the next couple weeks as the Penguins experience life without Evgeni Malkin. If Wednesday was any indication, they will be up to the task.

1:37 PM:
Here is the longer version of head coach Dan Bylsma's comments to reporters on Malkin's injury, Kennedy's status and Brent Johnson making the start against the Blue Jackets:

On Malkin:
You don’t have to worry about his courage on the ice and how he is going to play. Knowing he has been dealing with this shoulder and he is still going out there throwing body checks and still going in there, that’s the kind of players we have and that he is. This is trying to make the best decision on the health of the player. It is not an easy one.
On juggling the lines:
It will be interesting. We talk about the strength of our centermen. People talk about Jordan Staal being a second centermen on another team. We realize (center) is the strength of our team and we are fortunate to have depth at that position. Jordan will certainly see more ice time and probably a little more power-play time as well. I think we have enough quality forwards that we should be able to play a little bit differently, but we should be alright.
On Chris Kunitz:
I’ll take four-point games from him the next couple weeks that would be great. Chris’ game has been good – he has been effective, physical and there has been a little bite the past three or four games. He gets results so we get to talk about him a little bit. He is a guy who prides himself on doing the little things. He has been doing them and he got rewarded last night.
On his absence from practice Thursday:
It was just a maintenance day for Chris.
On not having Malkin and Gonchar on the power play the next couple weeks:
We don’t have time for me to go over the concerns I think about daily. So is it a concern? Certainly we have thought about it and are going to talk about different options. When you lose two good players I think it goes without saying that you have some things to fill in and some concerns about who is going to go in there, how it’s going to look and what the results are going to be. At the same time, two of our last three goals have been by our second power play. We have guys who can put the puck in the net.
On the goaltending rotation:
Brent Johnson is going to go the game in Columbus and then we will move forward from there.
On being without top players:
I think this team has been without Malkin, (Sidney) Crosby, (Sergei) Gonchar and (Marc-Andre) Fleury at different times. It is another challenge and another opportunity. You don’t expect your 82 games to be perfect and you don’t expect to go without an injury. Adversity at different times of the year helps your team and your players grow. Players grow into new ice-time assignments and different situations. It is another chance for our team to be tested, have some adversity and have guys go get opportunities here. You get to see guys step into those roles. I think it will be good.
On Tyler Kennedy:
He is still day-to-day right now.

12:57 PM:
Bylsma announced after practice that goaltender Brent Johnson will make his first road start of the season Friday night in Columbus. In his career Johnson has posted strong numbers against the Blue Jackets, registering a 9-2-2 record to go with a 2.07 goals-against average. The nine wins are most for Johnson against any one team.

12:53 PM:
Lost amid the bombshell that Evgeni Malkin will be out a couple weeks was the update Bylsma provided on a couple other Penguins to miss practice Thursday. Forward Tyler Kennedy remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. He is not expected to play Friday night in Columbus. Chris Kunitz, coming off a four-point night against Montreal on Wednesday, was given a maintenance day by Bylsma.

12:35 PM:

Head coach Dan Bylsma announced that forward Evgeni Malkin will miss 2-3 weeks with a shoulder strain. It is not the same injury that kept Malkin out of the lineup during the beginning of the 2006-07 season and the team is being cautious.

"Geno is going to be out of the lineup for a couple of weeks," Bylsma said. "He strained his shoulder about 10 days or so ago. I don’t know the exact day. It is precautionary for the player. We are worried about the safety of the shoulder. A couple weeks of rest and rehab will get that thing healthy so he can get back onto the ice.

Befitting a player who had played 254 consecutive regular-season games through Wednesday's action, Malkin was naturally disappointed by the news.

"Obviously he has played with it and could gut it out, which is what Geno would be apt to do," Bylsma said. "At this time of the year the concern is the player and this is a precautionary measure."

Although disappointed, Malkin will accompany the Penguins on their trip to Columbus later today.

"I can play good, but it’s the early season," Malkin said about the injury. "I feel good. It’s not a big problem, and I’m fine. I’ll be watching and supporting the team on the trip. It’ll be fine."

"It’s okay. It’s not the pain. It feels good. It’s because it doesn’t feel comfortable now."

11:29 AM:
Here are some of the sights from Thursday's practice at Mellon Arena:




11:21 AM:

Against the Blue Jackets the Penguins will be wearing their blue 'third jersey' for the second time in '09-10. Pittsburgh defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1, the first time they wore the jerseys back on Oct. 17.

The Penguins are wearing their blue gear in practice today to get a better feel for it in advance of tomorrow's contest. Friday will be the first time the Penguins have worn the blue jerseys on the road since a 2-1 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Jan, 1, 2008, which was the first time they had worn blue since defeating the Boston Bruins, 5-3, on Jan. 27, 1980 at the old Boston Garden. Pittsburgh debuted their black-and-gold uniforms for the first time on Jan. 30, 1980 in a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

11:15 AM:
The Penguins have hit the ice this morning for practice before flying later to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets Friday night at 7:00 p.m. All were accounted for on the ice except Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz. Check back later today for an update on their status.
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