Coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin is progressing fine in his rehab but it would be better for him to stay home.
Sullivan did not rule out the possibility of Malkin joining the Penguins on Thursday in Ottawa.
“Geno’s making progress,” Sullivan said after an optional practice Monday at PPG Paints Arena. “We are not going to take him to Buffalo. He’s going to stay back. We think it’s a better situation here for him to rehab. We made that decision. He won’t play in Buffalo. Then we’ll go from there with him. We certainly think he’s making progress.”
Malkin has 11 goals and 18 points in his last 15 games played after returning from a lower-body injury Feb. 14. For the season, Malkin has 33 goals and 72 points. His points-per-game mark of 1.16 entering Monday's games trailed only teammate Sidney Crosby (1.23).
When he spoke Saturday, Malkin said the pain was so severe that it hindered his ability to shoot a puck.
The extra rest, though, will not be a bad thing.
“It’s a long season,” Malkin said. “Now I’m trying to get ready for the playoffs. A couple extra days, we’ll start work a little bit more in the gym. I hope I come back soon and be ready. Playoffs are more important.”
Rust has date circled
Bryan Rust practiced with teammates but without contact for the second time. Saturday was the first.
He reported no issues and said he’s continually champing at the bit to get back.
“I’ve been antsy for a few weeks now, just kind of watching all of these games,” Rust said. “It’s a little bit of a bummer, and I’m itching to get back in there.”
Rust was enjoying a career year before he was hurt, with 12 goals and 25 points in 50 games when he was hurt.
When Rust does return, he gives the Penguins a versatile winger with speed and a bit of feistiness to his game, something that figures to come in handy.
“He’s real versatile,” Sullivan said. “We can play him up and down the lineup. We’ve played him in the top six. He brings some speed and energy. We’ve played him on a checking line. We can use him in a number of different roles. He has the ability to adapt. Certainly he’s a good player for us. We’re excited to get him back here.”
Other injury updates
Sullivan said not much has changed with Olli Maatta (hand) and Kris Letang (upper-body), who’ve been skating together before practice for a couple days.
“There’s nothing that I can offer as far as significant change, other than that they’re making progress and going through the rehab process,” Sullivan said.
Maatta’s given timetable puts him back into games on March 31. There’s no known timetable for Letang’s return.
Clinching in Buffalo … again
With a win Tuesday, the Penguins can clinch a playoff spot in Buffalo for the second time in three years. Those Penguins, though, were a lot different than these ones.
That group scored just 25 goals over its final 15 games; this one produced 24 in a seven-day stretch from Dec. 1-8, 2016.
Marc-Andre Fleury said the obvious: This year’s group has much bigger goals than simply making the playoffs.
“We never go in thinking, ‘Are we going to make the playoffs?’ ” Fleury said. “We’re making the playoffs. It’s just a matter of time before we can clinch it.”
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