Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin probable to play against Flyers
PHILADELPHIA – After missing the five previous games with an upper-body injury, Evgeni Malkin is probable to play against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
Malkin was injured on a hit by Tampa Bay’s Dan Girardi in a Jan. 30 game. The Penguins went 1-3-1 in his absence.
“He just helps in so many areas,” Sullivan said. “The power play’s just one aspect of it. He’s a dynamic offensive player. He’s a threat most times when he goes over the boards, whether it’s five-on-four or even strength. He just makes our team that much harder to play against. I think when he’s in our lineup, it creates matchup challenges for our opponents. He helps us in so many ways.”
Malkin skated with Phil Kessel on his left and Nick Bjugstad on his right during morning skate Monday. That’s a departure for Kessel, who typically plays the right side.
“Phil’s played the left side a handful of times over the course of the last couple years,” Sullivan said. “I actually think, in Phil’s particular circumstance, there’s benefits to him playing that off side, especially coming out of our end zone. When the puck comes around the wall, he has the ability to take that puck on his forehand as opposed to his backhand. It gives him an opportunity to make that next play.
“There’s pros and cons to playing the off side or not, but Phil is comfortable playing on both sides. I’ve had that discussion with him over the last couple of seasons.”
Based on personnel at morning skate, rookie Teddy Blueger will be scratched to make room for Malkin in the lineup. Matt Murray will start in goal.
It’s an important game for the Penguins, who have lost four in a row to slip to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, one point up on Carolina and two ahead of Buffalo. They’re six points ahead of the surging Flyers, who are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games.
Rookie goalie Carter Hart, who is expected to start Monday night, has won eight straight decisions.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.