Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was diagnosed with a concussion and will miss at least the next three games, coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday night. The Penguins' next three games are on the road.
Malkin, 26, the defending NHL scoring champion and MVP, did not play against Tampa Bay Sunday night at Consol Energy Center or participate in the morning skate.
Malkin's back and head slammed into the end boards and his neck snapped violently in the third period of a game Friday night after he was checked by Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
Bylsma said Malkin had some short-term memory loss after the hit, although that has dissipated. Bylsma said Malkin did not have headaches or disorientation, which can be concussion symptoms.
As per NHL protocol and the latest in treatment of concussions, Malkin will need to be free of symptoms and get medical clearance before he can skate, practice, have contact and, finally, return to the lineup.
Penguins team captain Sidney Crosby spent the better part of a year and a half, starting in January 2011, sitting out because of a concussion and neck injury.
He has spoken to Malkin but hasn't stepped in with advice.
"I just asked him how he's doing," Crosby said. "I'd probably give him a headache if I started trying to explain all the stuff I went through.
"I think that as a teammate, as a friend, I just ask him how he's feeling. It's too early for telling him my life story. I think it's just more or less being there for him.
"We'll see. From what I heard, he's feeling better [Sunday], so that's good."
Bylsma also said Malkin is feeling "pretty good right now."
Crosby knows a thing or three about head injuries, and he did not see anything dirty about the way Malkin got hurt, when he lost his footing as he was barreling toward the net with the puck and got checked by Gudbranson.
"I think it's just a bad spot to get hit," Crosby said. "We all go hard to the net, and we all know that that's an area where if you go down there at full speed, it's tough. It's hard to slam on the brakes right there.
"It's just two big guys. [Malkin] wanted to get to the net. [Gudbranson] tried to finish his hit. I didn't see anything dirty about it; just a terrible place to get hit."
With Malkin on the ice and obviously hurt, teammate James Neal confronted Gudbranson just after the check.
"Anytime a guy hits your star player like that, you're going to have a response," Neal said. "Just the way [Malkin] went into the boards, too, was a little scary. You want to try to respond to that."
The Penguins play the Panthers again Tuesday in Florida.
As part of a "Support our Heroes" promotion, the Penguins invited 13 military veterans to the morning skate, then presented them with personalized jerseys.
The players wore camouflage jerseys during the pregame warm-up, and those will be autographed and auctioned at www.pittsburghpenguins.com.
Former Penguins winger and Upper St. Clair native Ryan Malone did not travel with the Lightning because of an unspecified injury. ... Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie returned after missing two games because of illness. ... With Malkin out of the lineup, the Penguins had just two healthy scratches, forward Zach Boychuk and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. ... The Penguins wore their dark-blue alternate uniforms for the second game in a row. They are scheduled to wear them three more times -- March 24, March 30 and April 2.
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 or Twitter: @pgshelly. First Published February 25, 2013 5:00 AM