Malkin won't make trip to Florida with Penguins due to injury
Eric Fehr to miss a month
February 4, 2016 8:43 PM
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Evgeni Malkin scores a goal in last weekend's All-Star game.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It’s a good weekend to be a versatile forward on the Penguins’ depth chart.
It is not a good weekend to be one of just a few centers left standing in the organization.
Two more dropped this week when the Penguins announced Thursday that Evgeni Malkin will miss at least the two games in Florida this weekend with a nagging injury and finally shared the prognosis of Eric Fehr. (Hint: it isn’t good.)
Fehr will be out roughly a month with a “significant” lower-body injury, said coach Mike Sullivan, who made it clear the injury is not expected to end Fehr’s season.
That leaves the Penguins without No. 2 center Malkin, No. 3 center Fehr, and previous No. 3 center in Nick Bonino (hand) for the games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, at a minimum.
The Penguins recalled prospect Oskar Sundqvist, who will make his NHL debut against the Lightning, from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL. He likely will fill a third- or fourth-line role.
Malkin played Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators and practiced Wednesday. There were no obvious problems apparent in either performance.
“It was brought to our attention after practice [Wednesday]. It’s been something that has been nagging him for a little while,” said Sullivan.
General manager Jim Rutherford said Malkin did not aggravate an injury or get one playing Sunday in the NHL All-Star Game.
“No. It’s not. He played the other night against Ottawa, and I believe it happened in that game,” said Rutherford. “And, right now, we’re just being careful and, hopefully, by Monday he’ll get re-evaluated and get back.”
Fehr is a different story. He absorbed a hit from Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki in the middle of the second period Tuesday, limped off in some pain and had additional testing Wednesday before the prognosis was shared after practice Thursday.
“Eric Fehr has a significant lower-body injury. It’s going to be longer term. It’s not season-ending. It’s nothing that severe but it’s significant enough that it’s going to be longer term,” said Sullivan. “It’s hard to put a time frame on these things. I think it’s hard when we do because everybody reacts differently. I think you’re looking at probably, you know, a month.”
Fehr plays against opponent’s top lines, is a key penalty-killer, and is considered a “glue guy” who does the little things that are hard to quantify.
Malkin’s loss is more glaring because he is among the club’s most-talented players and has been a consistent game-changer.
Presumably, Matt Cullen will move up to center the second line in Malkin’s place. Sullivan could slot wing/center Kevin Porter into Fehr’s spot on the third line or move Sundqvist there. The remaining center of the two would move to the fourth line.
“Everybody is going to step their games up. For some guys, it’s going to be an opportunity to show what they can do,” said Sullivan. “I believe we have enough depth in our organization, we’ve got enough guys that we can do our best to fill that role.”
Sundqvist has five goals and 11 assists in 39 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.
Cullen, who has moved with ease up and down the lineup many times this season, has turned out to be extremely versatile and at a bargain rate of $800,000 for his one-year deal.
“He’s been a good addition for us in many ways and now he even moves further up in the lineup,” said Rutherford. “He’s a guy who is very capable.”
Look, listen: Root Sports, NHL Network, WXDX-FM (105.9), PittsburghPenguins.com.
Noteworthy: The Penguins will be without centers Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, who have undisclosed lower-body injuries. … Sidney Crosby has six goals in his past four games, and an eight-game point streak, the longest active in the NHL. … The Penguins have power-play goals in four consecutive games (6 for 16). … Tampa Bay has nine wins in its past 10 games. …Goalie Ben Bishop earned his 100th franchise win Wednesday against Detroit, the first in Lightning history to reach that milestone.
Did you know? To date Malkin, Matt Cullen, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Brian Dumoulin and Ben Lovejoy are the only Penguins who have played in all 49 games this season. Malkin’s name will come off the list tonight.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.
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