Evgeni Malkin

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Malkin making progress, but won’t travel with team to Buffalo

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The Pittsburgh Penguins’ lengthy injured list still isn’t getting any shorter, but coach Mike Sullivan said on Monday that injured players Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta are all making progress in their recovery from their various injuries.

None of them, however, are ready to return, and that includes Malkin as he continues to recover from an upper body injury he suffered in Calgary when attempting to block a shot.

Sullivan said that even though Malkin is making progress, he will not travel with the team to Buffalo their game against the Sabres on Tuesday night.

He has not yet been ruled out of Thursday’s game in Ottawa, however.

Said Sullivan (via Pens Inside Scoop), “We just think it’s a better situation here for him to rehab. So he won’t play in Buffalo and then we’ll go from there”

Along with the aforementioned names, the Penguins are also playing without Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey, a pretty significant group of players that includes two of the best players in the league (Malkin and Letang) and several key contributors to the 2016 Stanley Cup team (Hagelin, Rust, Daley, Maatta). Their health more than anything else seems to be their biggest obstacle right now when it comes to making another run at the Stanley Cup, perhaps even more so than any potential playoff matchup. Health and having all of your key players in the lineup at the same time is a key when it comes to winning in the postseason, and right now the Penguins are as banged up as any team in the league.

Still, even with all of the injuries the Penguins are on a 7-2-1 run during their first 10 games in March and are keeping pace with the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets when it comes to the top spot in the Metropolitan Division and the Presidents’ Trophy race. The fact that Sidney Crosby and his line, which includes Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel, are tearing up the league is certainly making things easier for the team right now.

The Penguins will clinch a playoff spot with a win in Buffalo on Tuesday.

Crosby regains goal lead, tied for points lead after hat trick

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PITTSBURGH — With his three goals in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon Sidney Crosby became the first player in the NHL to hit the 40-goal mark this season.

It also put him back into sole possession of first place in the NHL’s goal scoring race (now three goals ahead of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand) and moved him back into a tie with Connor McDavid for the points lead with 80. Because Crosby has more goals than McDavid (15 more to be exact, and in seven fewer games) Crosby would also be the Art Ross Trophy winner if the season ended today. It is only the second time Crosby has topped the 40-goal mark in his career, while he has a legitimate shot to win his second goal scoring crown and his third Art Ross Trophy.

The fact he is in a position to potentially lead the league in both categories is pretty incredible when you consider that it has only been done three times since 1990 (Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08, Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96), and Crosby is currently doing it having missed six games this season due to injury.

Given the way he and his line are rolling right now it probably wouldn’t be wise to bet against him doing it.

With the Penguins’ lineup crushed by injuries at the moment (Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Olli Maatta and Bryan Rust all missed Sunday’s game) the line of Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary has been carrying the offense in recent weeks as they have now won seven of their past nine games (7-1-1) since March 3.

After Sunday’s game Mike Sullivan understatedly pointed out that “Sid is the glue that holds that line together” and that they have “played great for us.”

Just how great have they been?

Well, as a group that line has combined to score at least two goals in four of the Penguins’ past five games, accounting for nine of the team’s 14 even-strength goals during that stretch.

All three of them have contributed all three points (the goal and both assists) on seven of those goals. Even when they are not putting the puck in the net they just have the look of an unstoppable force right now and are creating multiple chances on almost every shift.

Sheary has been a fit on Crosby’s wing for most of the season, but the addition of Guentzel, who said on Sunday that he is just trying to make the most of his opportunity on that line, has taken it to an entirely new level.

Their speed, immediate chemistry and ability to get on the puck and create havoc for opposing defenses is pretty much unmatched anywhere else in the NHL right now.

For most of Crosby’s career there’s always been this never-ending question of as to his wingers are going to be. Right now, that question seems to have a pretty definitive answer.

 

Positive Penguins injury updates, including Malkin being day-to-day

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There’s no denying that the Pittsburgh Penguins are banged up, but unlike the Tampa Bay Lightning, they received some heartening injury news on Saturday morning.

(Granted, they share a thing in common with the Lightning in still having quite a few guys expected to miss at least a bit of time.)

The most important: Evgeni Malkin‘s injury isn’t serious and is considered day-to-day, according to head coach Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan also seems quite happy about Bryan Rust‘s progress, as the forward at least resumed skating. That said, he didn’t give a precise timeline of when Rust might return, noting that he must take the next step in absorbing contact.

So, while these updates amount to a “work in progress,” at least it’s easy for Pittsburgh to see that things are on an upward climb. Their next game comes against the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon.

More (more!) injuries in Pittsburgh: Malkin out tonight, Hainsey week-to-week

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Prior to today, the Penguins had already lost Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley, Bryan Rust, Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin to injury.

So what’s a couple more?

For Pittsburgh, that’ll have to be the mentality after learning that Evgeni Malkin would miss tonight game against New Jersey with a lingering upper-body ailment and, perhaps more distressingly, that trade deadline pickup Ron Hainsey is week-to-week with an upper-body issue of his own.

Malkin, who sits second on the team in points with 72, doesn’t appear to be seriously hurt. He briefly took to the ice for the morning skate before exiting. Head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t comment on the nature of the injury, or the severity.

Hainsey’s injury could be a problem. On its own, that’s a difficult void to fill — the veteran blueliner had appeared in 10 games since coming over from Carolina, and was averaging a shade under 21 minutes per night.

The ailment is even more problematic given the current state of Pittsburgh’s defense.

As mentioned above, Maatta, Daley and Letang are all out of action (part of the reason why Hainsey’s minutes had increased). That left Sullivan to ice a defensive unit comprised of Hainsey, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Chad Ruhwedel, Justin Schultz and Mark Streit in Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the Flyers.

In a related move, the Pens recalled Derrick Pouliot from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday. That left them with the following d-pairs…

Interesting Penguins tidbits on Sullivan’s drive, Malkin’s bond with Crosby

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The Pittsburgh Penguins tweeted out some really interesting tidbits about two driving forces for their success: 1) the bond between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and 2) Mike Sullivan’s drive to get results.

Pens Inside Scoop has the story, mostly from Malkin’s perspective, of two players who’ve known each other from their early-teens … and if Malkin has anything to say about it, two players who will remain teammates for their entire careers.

“I hope we play our whole lives here,” Malkin said. “I don’t want to move to a different city …”

Crosby provided similar thoughts, but Geno really illustrated the bromance most beautifully in that piece.

Speaking of beautiful, consider the lengths Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan goes to “take notes,” via this in-depth Boston University profile:

It’s a mind that never seems to stop, as seen in the coffee table in the TV room in Sullivan’s Duxbury, Mass., home—the top is a whiteboard, festooned with the blue lines, face-off circles, and goal creases of an ice rink. When a game is on, Sullivan is likely to pull out a dry-erase marker and diagram a defenseman’s mistake or a winger’s poor breakout execution. “He’s constantly analyzing with Xs and Os,” says his younger brother, Brian Sullivan, a former college hockey player, for Northeastern University. “He eats it and sleeps it.”

Having a coffee table designed for note-taking? Yeah, that’s about as close as you can get to actually eating and sleeping hockey. Someone needs to get photographic evidence of that bad boy.

… Now, as far as getting your own? Maybe that wouldn’t be the healthiest approach.