Malkin still not cleared to play

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Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin took part in Thursday’s practice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll return over the weekend. Malkin’s already missed Wednesday’s game due to an injury that Penguins coach Mike Johnston previously described as “slight.” However, it does sound like Johnston is erring on the side of caution.

“With anything that’s really nagging right now you want to be careful,” Johnston told NHL.com. “You just don’t want to aggravate it so it spirals into something that could be a longer term.”

The Penguins certainly don’t want to do anything that would unintentionally cause Malkin to miss playoff games, but that’s not to suggest that the contests Malkin will potentially be kept out of this weekend are inconsequential. Pittsburgh has gone 3-6-1 over its last 10 games, so it needs to rebound to avoid going into the postseason cold. Beyond that, the Penguins are in danger of slipping out of the third slot in the Metropolitan Division and into a Wild Card spot as Washington is just one point behind.

Pittsburgh will play Columbus on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday.