Evgeni Malkin did not participate in Monday’s morning skate and will miss his third straight game tonight when the Penguins host Anaheim.
He did not travel with the team to Florida for their back-to-back set against Tampa and Florida over the weekend as he stayed back in Pittsburgh to rehab a lower-body injury, and his status is currently listed as day-to-day.
“He wasn’t comfortable skating this morning with the team, so he’s obviously not going to play tonight,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “But his status is day-to-day.”
On a positive note, Dave Warsofsky skated with the team for the first time since suffering a concussion on Jan. 17 vs. Carolina. The defenseman has missed the last 7 games.
“It felt good to get back out there and skate,” Warsofsky said. “I’m pretty glad and pretty happy it didn’t take that long (to get back). I think everyone reacts to concussions differently and I responded pretty well, so I was pretty lucky.”
Warsofsky was hurt when linesman Tim Peel lost his footing, slid into him and took him out from behind while he was skating backwards.
“I was just looking up, taking the rush and as a defenseman you see everything in front of you so you’re not expected to be taken out from behind like that,” Warsofsky said. “When it happened, I think I was kind of in shock. Timmy called me, he apologized. He obviously didn’t mean anything by it, he blew an edge and it’s hockey, things happen.”
The Pens used the following lines at practice… Kunitz-Crosby-Hornqvist Hagelin-Cullen-Kessel Kuhnhackl-Sundqvist-Rust Plotnikov/Wilson-Porter-Sheary
HAGELIN-PERRON Pittsburgh and Anaheim meet tonight for the first time after making a big trade last month.
On Jan. 16, the Pens acquired Carl Hagelin from the Ducks in exchange for David Perron and Adam Clendening (who was since placed on waivers and claimed by Edmonton). And both Hagelin and Perron have been thriving in their respective cities since the trade.
Hagelin recently had a career-long 5-game assist streak, while Perron scored in his Ducks debut after going 19 straight without a goal for Pittsburgh and has since collected 8 points (3G-5A) in 7 games.
Both men have found chemistry with talented players, as Hagelin has been terrific on a line with Malkin (when healthy) and Phil Kessel while Perron has clicked with Ryan Getzlaf.
“They’re both good players in their own right and sometimes a change of scenery for both guys is a good thing,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s worked out for both players. They’re both very good players. They’re different players in what they bring to the table, but certainly I think from Carl’s standpoint, what he’s brought to our team is just that speed factor that I think helps us keep the puck.
“He’s played predominantly with ‘Geno’ and Phil. What he’s brought to those guys is through his speed and he has good enough hockey sense that he can play with those guys and play that give-and-go game. But I think he’s helped them keep the puck more. He’s obviously a threat off the rush because of his speed and I think a guy like Geno or Phil for that matter, they’re intuitive guys and they know if they can lay pucks into space and allow him to chase pucks down, he can be dangerous.”
Both players got off to slow starts this season. Hagelin had 12 points (4G-8A) in 43 games with the Ducks and was dealing with a lingering injury at the beginning of the year. However, he started feeling better after Christmas and was playing much stronger hockey leading into the trade.
While Hagelin said he was surprised by the move – ranking it at a 5 out of 5 – he’s since moved past that.
“You never walk around thinking you’re going to get traded, so when I got the call it was obviously something that surprised me,” he said. “But then you have to refocus. You play the game because you love it and you know things like that could happen and it’s just a matter of staying positive and making up your mind to play even better.”
That’s exactly what he’s done here in Pittsburgh.
“I was feeling good the last 8 or 10 games there on the West side and then when I got here I had confidence and I got put in a good spot,” Hagelin said. “I had an opportunity to be productive offensively and it’s worked out so far and it’s a matter of keep pushing. I know what type of player I am and I always believe in myself.”
As Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau put it, as a player, you always want to come back and beat your former team. With that being said, Sidney Crosby expects to be dealing with some tough competition from Perron tonight.
“He’s always kind of in the middle of everything,” Crosby said with a grin. “Scrums and he’s hard on the puck. I’m sure that we’ll expect a lot of the same here tonight.”
LOVEJOY-DESPRES The two teams made another big trade at the deadline last year when Anaheim sent Ben Lovejoy to Pittsburgh in exchange for Simon Despres – who is back in the lineup after missing 42 straight games with a concussion from Oct. 16-Jan. 23.
And even though it’s been almost a calendar year since the move, Lovejoy said for now, it doesn’t get old going up against your former team.
“I can’t speak to 10 years from now, but yes, this is a team that will always hold a special place in my life,” Lovejoy told me. “They were great to me as an organization. I was lucky to spend time there and I really want to beat them tonight.”
GOALIE MATCHUP The final Pittsburgh connection in the Anaheim dressing room is goaltender John Gibson. Boudreau said the Whitehall native will start tonight against his hometown team.
“Gibson’s starting, and he wants the start because he wasn’t as successful as he probably would have liked to have been in his last start here,” Boudreau said.
Gibson, who earned his first NHL All-Star Game selection at the end of last month, was between the pipes for Anaheim’s 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh in the opening game of the 2014-15 season last October. He did get the win in the first meeting of this season between the teams, making 23 stops in a 2-1 Ducks win on Dec. 6 at Honda Center.
Gibson will be going up against Marc-Andre Fleury, who was the first goalie off for Pittsburgh and brings a 5-game home winning streak and 7-game home unbeaten stretch (6-0-1) into tonight's game.