Penguns notebook: Jussi Jokinen misses first game



ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jussi Jokinen almost made it. He was one of five players to dress for the Penguins' first 77 games, but was scratched from their game Saturday night at Minnesota because of an unspecified injury sustained on a hit Thursday from Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

Forwards Sidney Crosby, Craig Adams and Brandon Sutter and defenseman Matt Niskanen will enter the Penguins game against Colorado tonight in Denver as their only players who haven't spent a gamenight in street clothes this season.

The Penguins' man-games lost to injuries and illness total will surpass 500 today, and it's not clear when they will get any of their injured players back.

Coach Dan Bylsma said Jokinen's injury is "not long-term at this point," but offered no prognosis for center Joe Vitale, who returned to Pittsburgh to have an unspecified injury evaluated.

Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin is expected to be checked today or Monday after suffering a foot injury 14 days ago.

"We're looking at the two-week point to get [his injury] looked at again by doctors, and we'll go from there," Bylsma said.

"But I don't have a prediction of whether he's going to be able to come back for the remaining games after that [examination] or when he'd be able to step on the ice to be ready to play."

More Crosby fans

Wild winger Zach Parise won't have a vote for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the league's most valuable player, but, if he did, Crosby apparently would be his choice.

"Oh yeah," Parise said Saturday. "No question.

"He is the best player in the league and in the world. No question."

Wild coach Mike Yeo seemed equally impressed by Crosby, who had a league-high 102 points before facing Minnesota.

"He's a threat every time he's on the ice," Yeo said.

"Obviously, we know what a challenge it is to try to contain him. It's an incredible task."

Martin feels good

Defenseman Paul Martin returned to the Penguins lineup Thursday in Winnipeg after missing 18 games because of a broken hand, and reported no problems after the game, despite logging nearly 24 minutes of ice time.

None arose over the next two days, either, so Martin was back in the lineup Saturday night.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "It was better than I thought it was going to be in Winnipeg."

What's more, Martin seemed confident that he'll be able to play again when the Penguins visit Denver.

"We'll see," he said. "Hopefully after playing one, it shouldn't be that bad."

Cooke plays familiar role

Former Penguins left winger Matt Cooke, who signed with the Wild as a free agent last summer, looks to have settled in well with his new club. Yeo said Cooke has given the Wild "exactly what we were hoping we were going to get from him," on the ice and in the locker room.

Cooke led the Wild with 176 hits before taking on the Penguins, and his willingness to play the body is a significant part of Cooke's contribution.

"He might not have six hits every game, but there's always the threat, always the possibility," Yeo said. "And opponents know that."

Cooke's role is similar to the one he filled for the Penguins, and he said he embraced the idea of filling a blue-collar niche long ago.

"You talk to any third- and fourth-line guy, and they want to be a scorer," he said. "Everyone grew up being a scorer. The biggest thing for me is understanding at an early age that there aren't teams made up of four scoring lines and that there was a role there [for a blue-collar winger]."

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG


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