Just when the Pittsburgh Penguins were starting to feel good about their improving health, they suffered another blow.
Brandon Sutter took Malkin’s place between Jussi Jokinen and James Neal during Tuesday’s morning workout in advance of a home matchup against the Coyotes. Winger Jayson Megna was recalled from the AHL to fill out the Penguins’ active roster.
It’s difficult to imagine the timing of this injury being worse, unless it occurred during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Malkin had just erupted for four goals and two assists against Detroit and Tampa Bay, and he was arguably the most dynamic player on the ice against the Blues.
The 27-year-old Malkin has already missed 11 games this season due to various ailments, but he is still second on the team in scoring (and tied for sixth in the NHL) with 72 points (23g, 49a) in 60 matches. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said surgery isn’t needed at this point.
If Malkin misses two weeks, he will return with just three games remaining in the regular season. If he misses three, he will have to jump right into postseason competition. The Penguins are a win away from clinching their eighth straight playoff berth and are nearly assured of being the Eastern Conference’ No. 2 seed behind Boston.
Pittsburgh is already missing top defensemen Paul Martin (broken hand/wrist) and Kris Letang (stroke), although both could return before the end of the regular season. Winger Beau Bennett hasn’t played since November, but he is currently in the midst of a rehab stint with the AHL Penguins.
Defensemen Brooks Oprik and Rob Scuderi have also missed significant time this year, as has winger James Neal. Also, Pascal Dupuis has been out since December with a severe knee injury that will sideline him until the fall. Pittsburgh has lost 439 man-games this season, the most in the NHL.