Penguins notebook: Unbelievable year for injuries keeps getting worse



On his first shift Sunday, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was in the left circle in the St. Louis end when a puck launched from the point by defenseman Barret Jackman hit him in the right foot.

Malkin finished the game, but that incident apparently is the culprit that will keep him out until around the time the playoffs start.

Coach Dan Bylsma announced Tuesday that Malkin will miss the next two to three weeks because of a foot injury. The playoffs begin three weeks from today.

“Every time you lose a player like him, it’s a big blow for the team,” said Malkin’s regular left winger, Jussi Jokinen. “At the same time, we have dealt with lots of injuries during the year.”

The Penguins are approaching 450 man-games lost. Malkin missed 11 games to injury earlier in the season before missing the game Tuesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes at Consol Energy Center.

Still, the former NHL scoring champion and MVP has 23 goals, 49 assists to rank second on the team with 72 points. He had four goals, two assists in the two games before Sunday.

“He’s had a strong couple of games,” Bylsma said. “To get that news is disappointing.”

At least initially, Brandon Sutter moved into Malkin’s spot on the second line between Jokinen and James Neal, with Marcel Goc centering the third line.

“With both Sutter and Marcel comfortable in the center position, both of those guys are capable and good centermen,” Bylsma said. “Having [Sidney Crosby] and Sutter and Goc as our top three centermen is, we feel, a good situation.”

Megna returns for 5th time

With Malkin out, the Penguins recalled winger Jayson Megna from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Again.

It’s Megna’s fifth recall. He has played 27 NHL games in his career, all this season with the Penguins. He also has played in 25 AHL games this season.

“If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I was going to split half the time in the NHL and the AHL, I would have been ecstatic,” said Megna, a second-year pro. “It’s been a great year.”

Megna had five goals, three assists at the NHL level before the game. He has nine goals, five assists for Wilkes-Barre. He’s getting used to making the transition between the leagues.

“I’ve had a little bit of practice now,” he said. “It’s gotten considerably easier.”

Crosby nears 100-point mark

Crosby entered the game Tuesday with a league-leading 94 points. He has topped 100 points four times in his career and is looking forward to reaching triple digits for the first time since he had 109 in 2009-10. That was his last full season until this one, thanks to a concussion, neck injury, broken jaw and NHL work stoppage.

“It’s a nice number, that’s for sure,” Crosby said. “You’ve usually done some good things over the course of the year if you’re able to get to that number. I think everyone looks at different milestones, but [100 points] is difficult. The way teams play [defense] now, it’s tough.

“It would be nice. It’s not something I’m trying to think about a whole lot, but it would be good.”

Coyotes survive a scare

Phoenix already was scheduled to go with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss against the Penguins because of back-to-back games, but the Coyotes might have dodged a bullet with No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith.

Smith got what initially looked like a significant right knee injury Monday night against the New York Rangers. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said Smith had tests done in Pittsburgh and is day to day.

The Coyotes recalled Mark Visentin from Portland (AHL) to back up Greiss.

Tip-ins

Penguins defenseman Paul Martin, recovering from surgery for a broken right hand, is scheduled to have X-rays Sunday. He did not skate Tuesday, but only because he was ill, Byslma said. … The Penguins scratched defenseman Deryk Engelland.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.

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