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Pens Report: 3.18.17

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The Pens practiced on Saturday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena ahead of their Sunday afternoon matchup with Florida.

All expected players were present at the skate, and Evgeni Malkin was also there after being held out of Friday's 6-4 win over New Jersey with an upper-body injury suffered after blocking a shot in Monday's 4-3 shootout loss to Calgary.

Though he played in Wednesday's 3-0 setback to Philadelphia, Malkin said he didn't feel great and felt like he couldn't shoot because of the pain in his shoulder. As a result, he didn't dress last night and said he likely won't play tomorrow against the Panthers.

"I still have pain," Malkin said when asked how he felt after practice. "It's not my best day. But every day it's better, I feel a little bit better. But it's tough to play tomorrow and probably not. Just give me a little bit of time. Just wait a little bit."

Malkin then added with a wry smile, "But no more blocking shots." He said that it was instinct that made him go down and sacrifice his body on the play.

"I don't block a lot, but (I was) frustrated (because) when we lost the puck in the neutral zone, they played in the offensive zone a long time and I saw the forward ready to shoot," Malkin said. "I just tried to block a shot. It's not perfect, but it's instincts."

And while it's certainly not ideal for him to miss time, head coach Mike Sullivan said that's just part of the game.

"This game is an instinctive game and players are going to make decisions in fractions of a second and they're going to make decisions they think are going to help us win," Sullivan said. "Certainly we don't want to see Geno get hurt or any of our guys, for that matter. But the nature of the game is that it's a belligerent game. So we all run that risk every time we lace up our skates."

Sullivan said they don't feel like it will be a long-term injury. He added that it will be more of a day-to-day thing and they're hopeful he'll be back soon. In the meantime, Malkin is going to focus on taking advantage of getting some rest before the postseason begins.

"I want to play for sure but it's a long season and now I'll try to be ready for playoffs," he said. "Start to work a little bit more in the gym and be ready for when I start playing. Just be ready and I hope I come back soon because it's more important for playoffs right now."

Bryan Rust also skated with the team wearing a no-contact red jersey for the first time since he suffered an upper-body injury on Feb. 9 at Arizona that has forced him to miss the last 17 games.

And after being out for so long, he was thrilled to be back with his teammates.

"It's always fun to get back on the ice with the team," he said. "I was excited. I was out there earlier than I normally am. Things are coming along quicker than expected. Hopefully they keep going that way."

While things are progressing nicely, there's still no definitive timeline for his return.

"I can say he's a whole lot closer because he's obviously on the ice and he's joining us in a non contact fashion," Sullivan said. "The next step, obviously, would be contact. But certainly, we're really encouraged with where he's at at this point."

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