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Pens Report: 2.10.17

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The Pens stayed the night in Denver following their 4-1 win over Colorado on Thursday. They flew to Phoenix this morning and practiced this afternoon at Gila River Arena.

Evgeni Malkin (lower-body, 6 games missed) skated with the team for a fourth straight day, his second with full-contact.

"Today was good," he said afterward. "It was not the hardest practice; it was a light practice but I feel great. It's day-by-day. It's close and right now I feel great. Hopefully I come back soon."

Malkin said while he's hoping to return Saturday against the Coyotes, he has to wait and see how he feels in the morning (the Pens will not be holding a morning skate with the 6 p.m. local time puck drop).

"It's tough to say right now. There's a good chance," he said. "I feel good today and we will see what is going on tomorrow morning. It's very important to see what's going on tomorrow morning,how it feels. I'm not going to say 100 percent but there's a good chance to play."

Head coach Mike Sullivan also wasn't ready to commit to Malkin's return.

"We're certainly encouraged with the practice he had today," Sullivan said. "He felt strong, it was full contact for him. We'll see how he responds to it. Right now, his status is just day-to-day."

One player who will not be dressing for tomorrow's matchup is Bryan Rust, who left late in the second period of Thursday's game. He was driving to the net when Sidney Crosby hit him with a pass he tried to deflect in.

As Rust was reaching for it, Avs defenseman Mark Barbiero cross-checked him hard and sent him flying into goalie Calvin Pickard and into the net. Rust was slow to get up, went straight to the locker room and did not return.

"He's not going to play tomorrow," Sullivan said. "So we'll evaluate him when we get back to Pittsburgh. We'll have more information then."

During his media conference Sullivan provided one more update, this one on injured winger Carl Hagelin, who has missed the last two games with a concussion.

"'Haggy' is status quo," Sullivan said. "He skated on his own this morning, I believe. But we'll let you know when he makes progress. He's still status quo."

With Rust, Hagelin and Conor Sheary (lower-body, four games missed) all out with injuries, that means the Pens are going to be missing a lot of quickness from their lineup.

"It's hard to replace those guys," Sullivan said. "They bring a lot of speed to our lineup. That's one of the reasons they're here. They're all good players in their own right, so when three of them go down at the same time it's a challenge. But as I've always said, it provides opportunities for others to step up, play more significant roles and we've got to continue to work to get better and find ways to win games."

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