Malkin optimistic to make return Tuesday


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BUFFALO -- A knee injury forced Evgeni Malkin to sit out his fourth consecutive game when the Penguins faced Buffalo Saturday night at HSBC Arena.

It might be the last one he misses, however.

Malkin went through a fairly rigorous workout after his teammates' game-day skate, then pronounced himself optimistic about playing Tuesday, when the Penguins will visit Philadelphia, or Wednesday, when the New York Rangers will come to Consol Energy Center.

"I'll try to play in Philly, or maybe [against New York]," Malkin said. "I'll try to come back in these two games."

Malkin hadn't been on the ice in a week because of his knee, but it seemed to hold up well under the demands placed on it by conditioning coach Mike Kadar.

"It was a tough practice," Malkin said. "We skated after the morning skate, stops-and-starts and all that. It was a [good test], and it felt all right."

Called up

Dustin Jeffrey had been waiting for a long time for the phone call he got Friday.

That doesn't mean he necessarily was expecting it when it finally arrived.

Jeffrey and the rest of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were in Norfolk, Va., getting ready for a game against the Admirals, when Jeffrey got word that he was being summoned to the NHL.

"Obviously, you're hoping for it, but I was kind of getting prepared for the game," Jeffrey said. "It was getting pretty close to game time."

Didn't matter, though, because he was on a flight to Philadelphia before the game in Norfolk started, and a connecting flight got him to Buffalo around the time the Admirals were wrapping up a 4-2 victory.

Saturday night, Jeffrey was in the Penguins' lineup for their game against the Sabres. It was his first appearance in the NHL this season, and the 16th of his career.

That Jeffrey, 22, would be promoted wasn't a shock, given that he was tied for the AHL lead in points (30 in 25 games) and short-handed goals (4), while ranking in the top 10 in goals (13), assists (17) and shots (92).

"Dustin's a guy who's been begging for a call-up with his play in Wilkes-Barre for a good month and a half now," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

'Special' homecoming

Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber grew up in Chippewa and Cranberry, played for teams such as the Beaver County Badgers and Junior B Penguins and remembers "growing up watching [Mario] Lemieux and [Jaromir] Jagr and those types of players."

It stands to reason, then, that playing against the Penguins -- as Weber did for the second time in less than a month Saturday night -- is the kind of thing he won't forget anytime soon.

"To be given a chance to play against your hometown team is pretty special," Weber said. "It will be even more special when I get back to Pittsburgh to see the new rink and what the city's done there."

Being born in Western Pennsylvania isn't Weber's only connection to the Penguins. During his final season with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League, he was coached by former Penguins defenseman Bob Boughner.

Boughner, who coached the Spitfires to Memorial Cup championships in 2009 and '10 before taking an assistant coaching job with the Columbus Blue Jackets, selected Weber as his first captain.

Getting his groove back

Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie last season, but he struggled mightily during the early weeks of 2010-11.

Eight games into the season, he had one goal, one assist and a plus-minus rating of minus-9.

He has been getting his game back in order, however, partly because he has gone back to playing within his limitations.

"He's been better," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Saturday. "What we've tried to do with him is to keep his game simple. He tried to do too much."


Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com . First Published December 12, 2010 5:00 AM


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