Perhaps it was optimism that induced Evgeni Malkin to bring an extra stick with him Friday when he took the ice at Southpointe 20 minutes before the scheduled start of the Penguins' practice.
Or maybe it was just habit.
Regardless, he stuck it out for 15 minutes after his teammates joined him, working a few drills, then left.
Malkin, the team's second-leading scorer, will miss his third game in a row and fifth out of the past six today when the Penguins play Philadelphia. He has a sore right foot after being hit by a shot March14 and aggravating it a week ago.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Malkin will be assessed Sunday before the Penguins play the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Malkin could very well be joined again off the ice today by defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who missed practice after sitting out a game Wednesday at Washington because of an unspecified illness.
Backup goaltender Brent Johnson also missed practice because he was ill -- Bylsma indicated it was food-related, different from Gonchar's ailment -- but is likely to be able to dress behind starter Marc-Andre Fleury against the Flyers.
"We'll see how they are going forward, but we expect Brent to be able to back up," Bylsma said. "Sergei is dealing with a sickness, so we'll see where he's at."
After implementing a new rule this week prohibiting "a lateral, back-pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact," the NHL released a seven-minute video with examples of legal and illegal hits.
Penguins winger Matt Cooke's March 7 hit on Boston's Marc Savard is included under the "illegal" category. So is Philadelphia center's Mike Richards' hit on Florida's David Booth earlier this season.
Savard and Booth suffered debilitating concussions, but Cooke and Richards were not suspended.
The new rule does not provide for in-game penalties for such hits -- although that could come next season -- but it does call for NHL reviews and possible supplemental discipline.
Cooke, whose hit came just before the league general managers meetings, bringing a lot of attention to the issue, is in favor of the mandate.
"I think that it puts more onus on the hitter to be responsible for the guy in the middle of the ice," he said. "It means that if I'm going to hit in that area [of the ice], that I have to make sure that I'm making shoulder-to-shoulder contact.
"I think it gives more clarification than what was there before. Anytime that you can add that, it's a good thing."
"I think everybody feels like clarification is a good thing, and I think they took steps to do that," he said. "The players are a little bit more aware of what those situations are, and that's a good thing."
The league's explanatory video can be seen at www.nhl.com.
Malkin skated on a makeshift fifth line. The top four lines were: Alexei Ponikarovsky-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz-Jordan Staal-Bill Guerin, Cooke-Tyler Kennedy-Ruslan Fedotenko, and Mike Rupp-Max Talbot-Craig Adams.
It would seem likely, though, that winger/enforcer Eric Godard will play against the Flyers.
The Penguins spent a chunk of time working on the power play. The top unit had Crosby, Ponikarovsky and Guerin at forward, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang at the points. The second unit consisted of Staal, Kunitz and Fedotenko at forward, Jordan Leopold and Mark Eaton on the points.
The Flyers, who have a reputation as a punishing team, have one player who ranks in the top 30 in the NHL in hits -- Daniel Carcillo, whose 178 had him in a tie for 22nd through yesterday.
The Penguins, in contrast, had four in the top 30 -- Brooks Orpik, sixth with 231; Rupp, 16th with 186; Adams, 26th with 175; and Cooke, 30th with 169.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com .