Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin has had a rough week or so. On March 20, he was the recipient of a butt end in the groin, courtesy Red Wing James Legwand. A five minute major penalty was assessed on the play, Legwand was ejected from the game, and also received supplement discipline in the form of a $5,000 fine for the hit on Malkin. Legwand seemed incredulous when the penalty was called, but the video of the incident was convincing; Malkin was doubled over in pain, struggled to make it to the bench, and was in obvious discomfort.
Malkin was noticeably absent from Monday’s practice; this absence was explained as a day off for the Penguins Olympians. When Malkin did not participate in today’s morning skate prior to the Penguin’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Penguins Coach Dam Bylsma finally owned up, and admitted that Malkin was injured. As is the norm, Bylsma was as vague as possible about Malkin’s injury, stating only that it was a foot injury that was incurred during Malkin’s first shift of the Penguins game against St. Louis on Sunday. Malkin will not require surgery but will be out two to three weeks.
Malkin was seventh in the league in scoring, with 72 points prior to this injury. He had been playing his best hockey of the season after returning from the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Malkin had a two goal, two assist game against the Tampa Bay Lightening on Saturday, the game before this latest injury. Bandon Sutter will take Malkin’s place on the second line, playing with Jussi Jokinen and James Neal. Jokinen, who is having his most productive season playing along side Malkin, was not exactly happy about the injury:
“Every time you lose a player like that, it’s a big blow for the team. At the same time, we’ve dealt with a lot of injuries during the year and it might be the same case during the playoffs, and we’re losing one of our big names to injury, we still need to find a way to win some games. There’s only one Evgeni Malkin in the world.”
Jokinen isn’t kidding when he says that the Penguins have faced some injury problems. While leading the Meropolitan Division have been at or near the top in man games lost to injury all year. The NHL does not track or publicize that statistic, but each team does, and the Penguins have been neck and neck with the Detroit Red Wings in this least desired category. The Penguins, without Evgeni Malkin, have another chance to clinch a playoff spot against the Phoenix Coyote tonight. As for the playoffs, Malkin is expected to be back to start the Penguins run for the Stanley Cup.