Brassard Hoping To Fill Void With Malkin Uncertain

Josh Rowntree
April 24, 2018 - 2:23 pm
Derick Brassard

Josh Rowntree

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - With the availability of Evgeni Malkin up in the air, Penguins center Derick Brassard appears ready to expand his role when the team meets Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Malkin suffered a lower-body injury in Game 5 against Philadelphia and, despite returning in that game, missed Sunday’s Game 6 victory. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Tuesday that Malkin is day-to-day.

“Losing a guy that's almost scored like 100 points and 40 goals, I think you can't really replace that, the way he plays,” said Brassard. “I think as a group, we're all going to have to step up and play some big minutes."

Brassard was brought to Pittsburgh to add depth to an already strong group of centers that includes Malkin and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who is tied for the NHL’s lead with 13 playoff points.

Malkin’s presence would likely be missed should he not be able to go against the Metropolitan division winning Capitals. Malkin has six points in four games against Washington this season.

“Guys understand that they may play a different role,” Crosby said. “When you have guys missing, collectively, you have to step up and I think it takes guys being aware of that and seeing that challenge and then, obviously, going out and making the most of it.”

Working with speedy wingers in Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust, Brassard’s line has played a pair of strong games in a row.

“Brassard’s line, with Rusty and Conor on it, we’ve really liked,” Sullivan said. “We think that line’s been really good since we put it together. They’ve had a lot of scoring chances, 5-on-5. We really like that line.”

Not only is Malkin’s health uncertain, but winger Carl Hagelin also missed Tuesday’s practice with an upper-body injury. Hagelin was bleeding from the mouth after a high hit from Flyers captain Claude Giroux Sunday. He is also day-to-day, meaning that the Penguins lines will continue to be jumbled.

But Brassard staying with, as he describes, “straight line” players on his wings seems to be a plus.

“You need four lines to win in the playoffs,” Brassard added. “I’ve found some pretty good chemistry here with Sheary and Rusty. We’re going to try to be a difference maker in the next series.”