Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin is on the sidelines – again

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It’s a good thing the Pittsburgh Penguins have showed that they can be competitive even without superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, because they’ve had to do that a lot lately. Malkin, whose 2010-11 campaign ended on February 4th because of a torn MCL and ACL in his right knee, has already missed two games because of soreness in his surgically repaired knee. He registered two assists in his return on Thursday, but it looks like he isn’t out of the woods yet.

The Penguins’ NHL site released this brief statement from coach Dan Bylsma:

Malkin was not on the ice this morning and he will not be in the game tonight.

He didn’t specify the nature of Malkin’s problem, so it could be anything, but the safe money is on Malkin’s right knee acting up again. The silver lining is that we’ve seen plenty of evidence that this injury hasn’t slowed Malkin down significantly on the days that he does play. He has a goal, three assists, and eight penalty minutes in three contests.

This might be a problem that goes away as the season progresses or it might be something that lingers throughout the 2011-12 campaign. On the plus side, Sidney Crosby is making progress towards his eventual return from a concussion. So who knows, maybe at some point in the not too distant future, the Penguins will have both of their stars play in the same game for the first time since January 5th.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.