Malkin pushing to play against Atlanta
*Pittsburgh Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin participated in today’s practice and is believed to be inching closer back to the lineup.
Although Malkin doesn’t appear 100%, he is pushing to play Saturday afternoon against the Atlanta Thrashers. Malkin has missed 7 of 8 games with a right foot injury. Multiple x-rays have shown no fractures on the foot and according to team sources, the injury is scar tissue related that isn’t causing any long-term concern.
Malkin who did not make it through Thursday’s practice, will be a coaches decision for tomorrow’s game.
A sign that Bylsma is leaning towards playing Malkin against Atlanta is that Malkin centered Alexei Ponikarovsky and Bill Guerin for the duration of today’s practice.
In prior skates when Malkin was not going to be in the lineup, he spent line rushes on one of the extra lines.
Malkin will be re-evaluated in the morning and a decision will be made prior to game time. Based on how he’s skating, the best move would be to hold him out one more game but all signs point towards him playing tomorrow.
As of last Sunday, word from team officials was that Malkin would be held out until at least this weekend with the Atlanta game as the first target date for a return.
Practice Notes: Kennedy back on 3rd; Fedotenko out of top-6?
The Penguins went through a number of flow drills, along with spending time on neutral zone breakouts and a few cycling drills down low.
Head coach Dan Bylsma had a practice plan for the second straight that focused on attention to details.
With Malkin getting close to returning, getting stability on the top four lines will be pivotal for the Penguins coaching staff.
For the second straight practice, Jordan Staal centered Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. Getting the Penguins 3rd line back together and peaking into the playoffs will likely be a priority for the coaching staff.
Kennedy’s subpar play along with the Malkin injury led to the line splitting up.
Meanwhile, if Malkin is to play tomorrow afternoon, indications over the past two practices is that Ruslan Fedotenko will out of the top-6.
Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz will be re-united on the top line and Pascal Dupuis will remain on right wing. We can confirm that.
For the most part, Fedotenko alternated with Michael Rupp today on the 4th line and even took a few line rushes with Eric Godard and Jay McKee taking an odd shift at forward.
However, Bylsma has put Fedotenko on the 4th line in practice of late, then puts him right back on the 2nd line come game time. Bylsma’s use of Fedotenko in practices at times has not been a good barometer of where he fits in the lineup.
Fedotenko though won’t be the odd-man out with Malkin due to return.
Some buzz coming out of practice today is that Michael Rupp may sit tomorrow.
Gonchar will return to the lineup
Defenseman Sergei Gonchar took reps with Mark Eaton in practice today and will return to the lineup tomorrow afternoon. Gonchar has missed 4 games due to strep throat.
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Ponikarovsky – Malkin – Guerin
Cooke – Staal – Kennedy
Fedotenko/Rupp – Adams – Talbot
Orpik – Letang
Goligoski – Leopold