Evgeni Malkin can’t say for sure when he’ll be able to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup.
But he did shoot a few pucks on Marc-Andre Fleury this morning, and he didn’t rule out a return sometime during the Pens’ first-round series with the Rangers.
Malkin has not played since March 11 due to an upper-body injury that was expected to keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks.
Malkin’s availability in the first round may depend partly on how his teammates are doing versus the Rangers. The Pens took a 1-0 series lead last night, so, for now, the desperation factor is fairly low.
But if the series were to turn against them, Malkin could become extra motivated to get back in there, and the Penguins could become extra motivated to grant his wish.
As for Fleury? He wasn’t sharing any specifics about his status either.
Game 2 goes Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh (on NBC).
If you judge matchups by reputation or experience, then the Pittsburgh Penguins will need to overcome the New York Rangers’ huge advantage in net in Game 1.
Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t dressing for the Penguins on Wednesday. With that in mind, the Penguins go to third place on their organizational depth chart as Jeff Zatkoff will start in net. (Tristan Jarry serves as his backup.)
On the other end of the ice? Only Henrik Lundqvist, maybe the most reliably excellent goalie in the NHL.
Another lineup note:
The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday afternoon because of a concussion.
This is the second time Fleury’s been sidelined with a concussion in 2015-16. The 31-year-old missed eight games between Dec. 16 and Dec. 31 for the same reasons. It’s unclear how long Fleury will be out, but with their playoff spot locked up, the Penguins will allow their goaltender to heal up before the start of the postseason.
“Marc wasn’t feeling well when he came to the rink [Friday] and we sent him to see our doctors,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Post-Gazette. “He was diagnosed with a concussion [Friday] afternoon, so he’s not with us right now.”
Saturday’s game between Pittsburgh and New York will be huge for both teams. The Islanders will have an opportunity to cut the gap between themselves, the Rangers and the Penguins if they can get the two points this afternoon. The Pens will look to cement their spot in second place.
Here’s an updated look at the Metro Division standings:
Eric Staal opened the scoring in Sunday’s tilt between the Rangers and Pittsburgh. Staal took a cross-ice pass from Kevin Hayes and re-directed it behind Marc-Andre Fleury with just one hand on his stick. The goal was Staal’s 12th of the season and his second goal as a member of the Rangers.
Unfortunately for New York, Matt Cullen answered before the end of the first period to tie the game at one.
This game has huge implications in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers, who are second in the division, are four points ahead of the Penguins, but Pittsburgh has a game in hand.
The score is tied 1-1 going into the second period.
In the grand tradition of Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas and tires that did not get pumped, it appears as if we have a little bit of goalie-to-goalie trash-talking to bask in.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Twitter feed sure had some fun with Henrik Lundqvist‘s net-chucking mini-meltdown, and it appears to be in line with how at least some of their players feel.
Marc-Andre Fleury goes as far as to call Lundqvist’s actions “baby stuff,” according to Pens Inside Scoop.
(At least one other source confirms the phrasing.)
Here’s a reminder of said “baby stuff.”
And, again, the Penguins were amused:
Pittsburgh’s laughing after a 4-1 win against the New York Rangers tonight, but allow some begging: can this be a playoff series in 2016? Pretty please?
(H/T to The Score.)