PHILADELPHIA -- The Penguins will get one core player back when they face Philadelphia at 7:08 p.m. today at the Wachovia Center, because defenseman Ryan Whitney plans to rejoin the lineup after sitting out four games with a sore groin.
Whether they will be forced to get by without another, forward Evgeni Malkin, remains to be seen.
Malkin sat out the Penguins' practice at the Spectrum yesterday afternoon because of what was described as a "sore knee." Team officials, including coach Michel Therrien, expressed optimism that he will be able to play against the Flyers, although there is no guarantee.
"It's a day-to-day thing," Therrien said. "He should be there."
Malkin is a regular on the Penguins' top power-play unit and has been working alongside Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone on the No. 1 line. He has five goals and 16 assists in 16 games and owns a nine-game scoring streak.
Whitney, who mans the point opposite Sergei Gonchar on the Penguins' No. 1 power-play unit, made it through the workout with no significant problem -- "It's still a little sore, but that's how it's going to be," he said -- and said he will play tonight unless "overnight, something drastic happens."
Whitney's return could add a dimension Philadelphia did not have to deal with in its 3-1 victory Wednesday at Mellon Arena.
"Not only is he a great player, but he's got great chemistry with Crosby and Malkin," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He seems to always enter the zone on the weak side, away from the puck, and, when he gets the puck, he seems to really know where to find those guys.
"It's not just his offense. He's a big man who can skate. He can skate the puck out of trouble. He plays big minutes when he plays. There's no question he makes your team better when he's in. He's a big man with a well-rounded game."
The Flyers, by the way, figure to be at considerably less than full-strength because forwards Simon Gagne and Sami Kapanen, both of whom were injured Wednesday, are not expected to play.
Gagne, who had returned two games earlier from a concussion-like ailment, had an apparent recurrence after absorbing a hit by Gary Roberts in the third period, while Kapanen sprained his right knee and could miss a week or so.
Fleury in goal again
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 35 of 39 shots in the Penguins' 4-2 loss Thursday to the New York Rangers, is scheduled to make his second consecutive start tonight.
"I didn't mind his game [in New York]," Therrien said. "And he played really well against the Flyers last year."
Fleury went 8-0, with a 2.61 goals-against average and .909 save percentage, against Philadelphia in 2006-07.
Staal escapes serious injury
Penguins forward Jordan Staal has suffered through an exasperating start, at least offensively, to his second pro season -- he has one goal in 16 games -- and it nearly got a lot worse at Madison Square Garden Thursday, when teammate Petr Sykora accidentally smacked him near the left eye with his stick.
The blow landed below Staal's eye and, aside from opening a two-stitch cut, didn't seem to do any major damage.
"I knew I [still] could see right away," Staal said.
"I knew it was just a cut and I knew it wasn't a very big one, because I didn't get hit very hard."