Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Pittsburgh Penguins have another injured player.
According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Shelly Anderson, journeyman winger Chris Conner will have surgery this week to repair an undisclosed hand injury. Conner will be out six to eight weeks, said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. At least this time it’s a member of the forward corps, as the defensive squad has been absolutely hammered this season by health issues.
Conner, 30, has played in 19 games with the Penguins since being called up by AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, scoring four goals and five total points in a bottom-six forward role. This is his second stint with Pittsburgh, with time in the Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix organizations mixed in as well.
Conner’s injury clarifies news that the team released earlier Thursday, as hulking forward Taylor Pyatt was claimed off waivers from the New York Rangers. At 6-foot-4, Pyatt is nearly a foot taller than Conner and certainly not as fast, so it’s not a one-for-one replacement, although Pyatt does help the Penguins’ depth at wing.
The 32-year-old Pyatt has scored 276 points (136 goals) in 825 NHL games for five teams. He was the eighth-overall selection in the 1999 draft, starting his pro career with the Islanders.
In more positive injury-related news, center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang skated alongside their teammates in Thursday’s practice session and participated in power-play drills on the second unit.
Malkin, whose 41 points rank him ninth in the league, hasn’t played since injuring his left leg when banging into the end boards Dec. 14 at Detroit. The P-G‘s Anderson reported Malkin still has some pain and weakness in the leg, but he expects to be a game-time decision for Friday’s home tilt against the Rangers.
While Malkin has missed the Pens’ past eight games, Letang’s been in the press box for nine straight with an infected wound in his arm. Last year’s Norris Trophy finalist has been out of the lineup for 18 of Pittsburgh’s 42 games with various ailments.
Of course, the Metropolitan Division-leading Penguins (29-12-1, 59 points) have thrived with many key players out, going 11-3 in December despite a New Year’s Eve defeat at New Jersey. Pittsburgh will put its conference-best 17-3 home mark on the line at 7 p.m. Friday when the fifth-place Rangers (20-19-2, 42 points) invade Consol Energy Center.