Penguins notebook: Malkin, Bonino expected to return to lineup against Winnipeg
February 24, 2016 1:07 PM
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin is expected to return to the lineup Saturday. He will sit out his 10th consecutive game tonight because of an undisclosed injury.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BOSTON — Evgeni Malkin sat out his 10th consecutive game when the Penguins faced Boston Wednesday night at TD Garden.
From all indications, there won’t be a No. 11.
After participating in the game-day skate, Malkin — dealing with an undisclosed injury — confirmed that “the plan” is for him to rejoin the lineup when Winnipeg visits Consol Energy Center at 3:08 p.m. Saturday.
“Every day is better,” Malkin said. “A little bit every day [it is] progressing. I need a little bit more conditioning. I feel pretty good.”
Coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins also hope to have another center, Nick Bonino, who has missed the past 17 games because of a hand injury, back for the Jets game.
Despite his extended absence, Malkin is the Penguins’ No. 2 scorer, with 23 goals and 26 assists in 49 games.
“Obviously, he’s a difference-maker,” Sullivan said. “He’s one of the elite players in the world. He was playing really well when we lost him.
“I think [getting him back] will make us that much stronger. I think it makes us more difficult to play against, from a matchup standpoint, as far as our opponents and what their strategy might be to play against us.
“He makes us a much better team when he’s in the lineup.”
The Penguins were 5-3-1 in their first nine games without Malkin, although their power play was effectively neutered during that time, scoring just once in 23 tries.
Malkin suggested that he doesn’t expect to be at the top of his game immediately.
“When you have an injury, you never come back at 100 percent, because you don’t play,” he said. “I [will have] missed 10 games.
“It’s a little bit hard. It doesn’t matter how you practice. Games are different. … I think a couple of games, and I will be fine.”
New blue-liner called up
Rugged defenseman Steve Oleksy was recalled from Wilkes-Barre, but did not dress for the Bruins game. He played for the Baby Penguins Tuesday night and did not arrive in time for the game-day skate.
Oleksy apparently was summoned to serve as the seventh defenseman, because the Penguins will be without Ben Lovejoy for an extended period because of an undisclosed injury.
“He’s hard to play against,” Sullivan said. “He’s an abrasive guy. He’s tough as nails and he plays within himself. He understands the player he is.”
Meeting an old friend
Boston’s Joe Morrow still hasn’t developed into the defenseman the Penguins hoped they were getting when they invested a first-round draft choice in him in 2011. The main issue, Bruins coach Claude Julien said, is a lack of consistency.
“When he skates and moves the puck, he’s a good defenseman,” Julien said. “He’s got the ability to skate the puck out and carry the puck, even move the puck when you put him on the power play. He’s done a decent job there, as well.
“With him, it’s always been … keep the consistency in his game. If we could ever get close to the same thing from him on a daily basis or on a game-to-game basis, that would help his game tremendously.”
Morrow, who started the season on an NHL roster for the first time in his career, had one goal and six assists in 24 games in 2015-16 before facing the Penguins.
The Penguins sent Morrow to Dallas in the 2013 Brenden Morrow trade, and the Stars subsequently dealt him to Boston.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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