Centers Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury, missed 10 games) and Nick Bonino (hand, 17) will return to the ice against Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center after missing extended periods of time.
“It’s been good,” Malkin said Friday of the rehab process. “It was a hard skate for me today and I’m ready to play.”
Malkin and Bonino joined their teammates for practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex for the fourth straight day.
“I thought they looked strong,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’ve had a few practices now under their belt. They’ve had lots of contact. They’ve gotten involved in intensity drills. I thought they looked really strong out there.”
Malkin occupied his usual spot between Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel during line rushes. Bonino worked between Scott Wilson and Conor Sheary at practice.
Malkin’s return should help the Pens power-play unit. With Malkin in the lineup, the power play ranked eighth in the NHL with a 20.5 success rate. Since Malkin has been out of the lineup, Pittsburgh has gone just 1-for-24 on the man-advantage.
“The five of us together are hoping to score more goals, gain confidence and start playing better,” Malkin said on working back in with the unit.
Bonino, on the other hand (no pun intended), will have to reconfigure his role on the team after being sidelined for over six weeks because of the hand injury.
“The worst part of it the injury was just waiting,” Bonino said. “But once you get the ‘OK’ to start working out again, it gets a little better. Then once you finally get out on the ice, it gets a lot better.”
The only absent player from the team skate was winger Tom Kuhnhackl, who suffered a lower-body injury in the Pens' 5-1 loss to the Bruins on Wednesday.
“He got bumped in Boston,” Sullivan said. “He’ll be a game-time decision tomorrow.”
The Pens used the following workflow at practice….