The Pens practiced Saturday afternoon at Southpointe and they had an old friend join them.
Center Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, joined his teammates for practice for the first time following the All-Star break.
Malkin didn’t participate in every drill, but did a majority of the work. He centered a line with Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist.
But Malkin said he won’t be ready to return to the lineup Sunday afternoon against the Nashville Predators and his former linemate James Neal.
“No, not a chance,” Malkin laughed following practice. “He texted me asking if I play or not. I said, ‘maybe.’ He said, ‘take a couple more days.’ It’s tough. I haven’t skated enough. Just my first practice with the team. Not a chance to play tomorrow.”
Head coach Mike Johnston reiterated that stance.
“I thought he looked really good out there today,” Johnston said. “So he’s getting really close, he’s ahead of schedule so we’re excited about that for sure.
“The first thing was to get him into a regular practice. You saw at the end of practice today, he took some physical play so he got bumped around a little bit, took that. Get a skate in tomorrow. He won’t play tomorrow.”
Malkin will join the team on their upcoming western Canadian road trip next week, and it’s likely that he will be in the lineup at some point during the trip.
“We’ll see, maybe I’ll play Wednesday (at Edmonton). Maybe Friday (at Calgary),” Malkin said. “But good chance I’m back.”
Johnston said the Pens are “hoping that he’ll be available to play early in the trip.”
Malkin suffered the injury when the Pens played in Philadelphia on Jan. 20.
“A play in the corner, we (were on the) power play and I didn’t see who but a defenseman hit my groin and I felt so bad,” Malkin said. “I played the third period, but it bothered me.”
EHRHOFF UPDATE The only missing notable from Saturday’s practice was defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who was injured Wednesday night in Washington when he struck his head on the ice and missed the Pens’ Friday come-from-behind victory in New Jersey.
“(Ehrhoff) came in today to see the trainers and from my understanding is when he got back he met with our doctors and now he’s met with our trainers,” Johnston said. “He hasn’t even gotten to a stage where he is doing any activity yet, like biking or working out. So we’re hoping over the next two days he’ll at least progress to that stage.”
Ehrhoff, who has experienced concussion-like symptoms, has not been diagnosed with a concussion yet. More tests are being conducted.
“He still has some symptoms,” Johnston said. “With these things, whether it’s a concussion or it’s symptoms, they’re trying to determine sort of where he’s at and it takes a few days. It doesn’t just happen in 24 hours.”
WORKFLOW The Pens did rushes with Malkin. And when Malkin sat out rushes, Brandon Sutter took his place with Mark Arcobello doing spot duty. The Pens used the following workflow…