Malkin Practices Fully, Letang Limited for Pens

Penguins center wants to play Thursday vs Detroit

Josh Rowntree
April 03, 2019 - 1:45 pm
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin at practice in April 2019

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

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Evgeni Malkin may be close to returning to the Penguins’ lineup. Pittsburgh’s star center, who has missed the last eight games with an upper-body injury, was able to practice in a full-contact jersey Wednesday. 

Malkin was injured after taking a cross-check to the side from St. Louis defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. He was able to finish that game, but has not played since. Now, with just two games remaining in the regular season, it seems there is a least a decent chance Malkin returns soon.

“I’m trying to play the last two games,” he said. “Nothing’s changed. I practiced with the team today, but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow. I feel like every day is better and I want back.

“I feel great, I feel I’m ready to play. It’s not a push for me, but I still want a couple more games before the playoffs. I need confidence back, the feel of the game, of the puck. I hope tomorrow I wake up, feel great and am ready to play.”

Malkin, was able to skate earlier this week in a non-contact jersey, so Wednesday’s developments seem to be a positive step.

“Yesterday and today I started a little bit of contact,” he said. “But still, it’s not a game. You can’t simulate a game.”

Despite his desire to get back before the postseason, there is still unknown. 

“When you have an injury, it’s not always perfect with what you want,” he said. “It’s perfect if you get a couple more months of rest, but there’s not that much time right now. I’m trying to (get back) a little bit quicker.”

“He’s certainly a possibility for (Thursday) night,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan added. “He’ll be a game-time decision.”

While Malkin was able to take contact, defenseman Kris Letang, who has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, was able to practice, but wore a non-contact jersey for the duration of the skate. 

“I feel comfortable, obviously,” he said. “I was out there with the team. Being part of the power play, 6-on-5, stuff that we worked on.”

Normally, the process of returning to the lineup is skating on your own, practicing in a non-contact capacity, then with contact. But Letang has skipped steps in previous returns from injury, according to Sullivan.

“I talked with the doctor, we make decisions based on what’s intelligent,” Letang said. “It’s not based on ‘if we do this, if we do that.’ If I play one, I play one. If I play two, I play two.”

The returns of Malkin and Letang were welcomed sights for Pittsburgh, just 4-5 over its last nine games. 

The Penguins missed an opportunity to clinch a spot in the postseason Tuesday night with a 4-1 loss in Detroit. They will turn around and host the Red Wings Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. Getting at least one star player back would be a big boost.

“It’d be huge,” Sidney Crosby. “You always get a boost when guys get back in the lineup ,especially this time of year. The games are so important. It’d be huge to get those guys back.”

“(Malkin) is obviously such an important part of this team, doing so much,” forward Bryan Rust said. “Having him out of the lineup is hard to replace, so any time you get a player like that back, it gives everybody else a boost of energy.”

The news was not all positive on the injury front, as defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who missed Tuesday’s game with a lower-body injury, did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Zach Aston-Reese and Chad Ruhwedel also remained out. 

The Penguins will likely need to win at least once over the final two games to guarantee a spot in the postseason. 

“We play at home the last two games,” Malkin said. “We need to play great games before the playoffs.”

Hear more of what Evgeni Malkin had to say below.