Following a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night, head coach Dan Bylsma put his team back to work for a rare 8:30 a.m. skate.
The entire team participated in a hard 60+ minute practice, including Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Malkin but Malkin left the ice after about 25 minutes.
Malkin opened up practice on a line with Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin and Alexei Ponikarovsky also skated on the line but Malkin remains somewhat limited with his lateral movement. However, he continues to indicate that he is “hopeful” to play on Saturday.
A source says that Malkin is going to be re-evaluated tomorrow afternoon following the Penguins skate.
Malkin skating on a line with Kunitz and Bill Guerin is a sign that he is under serious consideration to play. Over the past two previous practices, he skated on one of the extra lines.
A team official I spoke to is calling Malkin “questionable at best” right now. At this conjecture, I expect management to hold him out for one more game.
Penguins GM Ray Shero stated yesterday that the Penguins goal is to get Malkin back to full health. Rushing him back makes absolutely no sense and he shouldn’t be under any kind of consideration to play against Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Sergei Gonchar participated fully in the Penguins skate and worked on the first power play unit. Kris Letang took the majority of reps at the left point with the first unit, while Alex Goligoski and Jordan Leopold got extensive work on the second unit along with Mark Eaton taking a few reps.
Gonchar is a good bet to return to the lineup against Atlanta, which will put Jay McKee out of the lineup who had 11:50 of ice time against Tampa Bay.
The Penguins lines to open up practice were as followed:
Ponikarovsky – Crosby – Dupuis
Kunitz – Malkin – Guerin
Cooke – Staal – Kennedy
Fedotenko/Rupp – Talbot – Adams
*Ruslan Fedotenko was floating around on lines and today wasn’t a good barometer of what Saturday’s lineup may look like.
Dan Bylsma on if he believes in his team
Do I know and believe in the guys in that room and what they’ve done before? Do they know how to play? Yes, Bylsma said.
“It doesn’t mean that you don’t try to get to a level that you need to get to and demand certain things out of your team so that you can be the best team that you can be. We’re not there right now and we have to keep pushing to get there. Sitting by idle is not something that we’re going to do at this point.”