Penguins coach Dan Bylsma went into shutdown mode Thursday when it came to information about his two injured star players, saying only that center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang remain day to day and indicating he did not want to divulge anything more.
Malkin practiced with the team for a third day in a row. He rotated with Dustin Jeffrey in drills, each skating between Malkin's usual wingers, Beau Bennett and James Neal. He also practiced some with the top power-play unit.
It seems there is at least a fair chance that Malkin will return tonight against the Islanders. He has missed the past six games because of what is believed to be a shoulder injury.
Malkin did not speak with reporters because there was nothing new to say, a team spokesperson said. He said twice earlier this week that he hoped to be ready to play tonight.
Letang skated with conditioning coach Mike Kadar for an hour before practice. He did not return to join his teammates at practice. Letang has missed one game since leaving Sunday's game against Boston early. It's believed he aggravated a nagging leg problem.
The Penguins have won 10 games in a row with 17 games remaining in the 48-game, lockout-shortened regular season.
Getting stale before the postseason isn't a concern.
"I don't think anyone's worried about peaking too soon," center and team captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's a short season. We just want to make sure we're playing well heading into the playoffs."
In games a couple of times recently, Bennett, a rookie, got confused about a couple of forecheck plays because he didn't recognize the names of them. It didn't go unnoticed.
"Coach [Bylsma] asked me if I knew it before practice, and I told him I would answer questions in front of the team," Bennett said.
He did more than that. He diagrammed the plays on a dry-erase board in front of his teammates, who were vocal in their support -- or, perhaps, mock support.
"It was all fun," Bennett said. "Luckily, I got them right. That's a good way for me to never forget what I'm doing ever again. It's instilled in my brain. I won't forget that again."
Like a lot of sports fans, the Penguins like to fill out NCAA basketball tournament brackets.
Crosby picked Indiana, the No. 1 seed in the East, although he smiled and noted that, "I'm sure there's a few pools that have Indiana."
One belongs to Bylsma, who filled out two brackets.
He and his son, Bryan, have Indiana winning the title. Bylsma had not completed his second bracket but said he was "leaning toward Miami in the final over Louisville."
Winger Matt Cooke has been playing but not practicing since his ice time was limited some Saturday after a painful blocked shot taken by the New York Rangers' Dan Girardi. He returned to practice Thursday, but left after a half-hour. ... Marc-Andre Fleury, on a proposal to shorten the maximum length of goaltenders' leg pads: "They keep shrinking the pads. As long as we still have some knee protection ... goalies will adapt." ... The Penguins devoted much of their hour-long practice to special teams. ... Winger Zach Boychuk found a long way back to where he started. He spent more than a month with the Penguins after being claimed from Carolina on waivers. When he didn't work out as Malkin's winger and then couldn't get back into the lineup, he was waived and claimed by Nashville. The Predators put him on waivers Wednesday, and the Hurricanes reclaimed him Thursday.