Penguins notebook: Chalk up another injury to another top six forward
January 2, 2014 7:36 PM
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
The Columbus Blue Jackets' James Wisniewski, left, and the Penguins' Chris Conner chase a loose puck during the first period of a game Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins’ injury merry-go-round was operational again Thursday.
They signed forward Taylor Pyatt off waivers from the New York Rangers not long before coach Dan Bylsma announced that winger Chris Conner will need surgery for a hand injury and will miss six to eight weeks.
Conner, who also has spent time in the American Hockey League this season, was hurt Tuesday in the loss at New Jersey. He has four goals and an assist in 19 games with the Penguins, mostly in a top-six forward role.
Pyatt, 32, is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound veteran who has 136 goals, 276 points in 825 games with five NHL teams. He is expected to join the club Friday for the morning skate. If he is in the Penguins lineup tonight, he will be facing the Rangers, who are playing at Consol Energy Center.
He played all 48 games for the Rangers last season, which was shortened by a lockout, collecting six goals and five assists with a plus-minus rating of plus-5. This season, he played in just 22 of New York’s first 41 games, with one assist and a minus-9 rating. The Rangers had a coaching change in the offseason.
“Being able to add an NHL player, forward, with our injury situation is key,” Bylsma said, adding that Pyatt “has not been able to get footing [this season with the Rangers] and be a factor.”
Pyatt’s salary cap hit is $1.55 million, and he is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Coming sooner than later
Two Penguins could be close to returning from injury, and they are prominent ones.
Center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang are hopeful of participating in the game-day skate and could be in the lineup against the Rangers.
“I’ll skate in the morning with the team, and we’ll see. Maybe,” Malkin said after practice Thursday.
Malkin, who has nine goals and 32 assists in 32 games, has what is believed to be a left leg injury from slamming skates-first into the end boards while backchecking in a Dec. 14 game at Detroit. He got some contact Thursday in practice.
He said the final hurdle to overcome is that he feels “just a little bit weak and a little bit of pain sometimes.”
Malkin and Letang manned the points on the second power-play unit.
It was Letang’s first practice since he had a surgical procedure to clean out an infection in his left elbow. He said he got what seemed to be an innocuous injury Dec. 13 against the Devils.
“I didn’t think it would do anything,” Letang said.
It got infected, however, and that led to surgery. He then wore a wrap-like cast that kept his arm partially bent from Dec. 16-27.
“It kind of lost strength and got stiff,” he said. “Now, it’s loose. I’m fine right now.
“It was just bad luck. The strength, everything is good.”
Letang had been skating “quite extensively” for a few days before returning to practice Thursday, Bylsma said.
This is Letang’s second injury this season. He missed the first nine games after a knee injury in a training camp practice. He has played in 24 of the Penguins’ 42 games, with five goals, 11 points and a minus-6 rating.
He has not flashed the form that made him a finalist last season for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top defenseman.
“Stepping back in [after the knee injury], even with his skating ability, you’d like him to be an All-Star right off the hop, but I think he wasn’t quite comfortable for a while,” Bylsma said. “We saw him start to get back to that before being injured again.
“He’s not going to step right in [at an elite level] when he does get back in the lineup. I don’t think it’s going to be a perfect game from him.”
Rookie winger Jayson Megna skated before practice with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Megna was injured Dec. 16 when he slammed into the boards after colliding with Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier in a race for a loose puck. … The Rangers Tuesday got two injured defensemen back in their lineup, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.
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