Malkin could return for the Penguins against the Capitals
CRANBERRY, PA – Evgeni malkin could return to the Pittsburgh Penguins roster at the Washington Capitals on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN +, TVAS, NBCSWA, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).
The center, who has missed 21 games with a lower-body injury, will travel on a four-game road trip. He took part in full contact training on Wednesday after wearing a non-contact jersey in a morning skate on April 20 and in training on April 23.
“When ‘Geno’ comes back into our roster, then obviously that gives us more options to do different things with the groups that we have,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
If Malkin doesn’t play Thursday, he could practice Friday and return to Washington on Saturday. After Friday, Pittsburgh does not have another full practice scheduled until May 7.
The Penguins are 14-5-2 since Malkin was injured in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on March 16. Pittsburgh (32-15-3) is second in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, one point behind Washington and nine points ahead of fifth-place New York Rangers. The top four teams advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Malkin has scored 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in 29 games.
After acquiring forward Jeff Carter in an April 12 exchange, general manager Ron Hextall said he expected Malkin, who was week to week, to return before the end of the regular season; the Penguins’ final scheduled game will be at home against the Buffalo Sabers on May 8.
Malkin participated in power play drills on Wednesday, used on each unit. On the upper unit, he replaced in front Jared mccann, who has scored six power-play goals in his last 17 games, joining center Sidney crosby, forward Jake guentzel and Bryan rustand defender Kris Letang.
“We love the way the power play works,” Sullivan said. “They did a really good job for us.… They are having a positive impact on the game. It’s encouraging from our point of view.”
Carter continued to fulfill Malkin’s usual role as a second-line center during line rushes. Malkin skated with Mark Jankowski and Sam lafferty like additional attackers.
In good health, Malkin would likely play with the right wing Kasperi Kapanen on the second line.
Kapanen has scored three points (one goal, two assists) in four games since returning from a lower body injury. He was injured four games after Malkin.
“I would like to think we would be reunited,” Kapanen said. “I think we had great chemistry when we were both playing. So excited for him to come back. Hope it’s soon. But we’ll see.”
Attackers Frédéric Gaudreau and Brandon tanev will also travel for the road trip. Gaudreau made full contact on Wednesday after missing eight games with a lower body injury; Tanev, who has missed 12 games with an upper body injury, is not expected to return until the end of the regular season.