Pittsburgh Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin missed practice, Saturday, and rumors grew inside the Penguins practice facility that Malkin will also miss Game 6.
In the first period of Game 5, Malkin awkwardly tangled with Flyers center Jori Lehtera. Malkin had to leave the ice but returned in the second period. He still played over 20 minutes in Game 5, including seven shot attempts and five shots on goal.
Malkin, a Hart Trophy contender, has five points, including three goals in the Round 1 series.
This season, Malkin was the Penguins leading goal scorer and overall scorer. Malkin had 42 goals and 98 points in just 78 games. He is also a point man on the Penguins heralded power play.
Without Malkin, the Penguins would turn to their insurance policy, Derick Brassard as a second line center. The Penguins acquired Brassard at the trade deadline in a complex deal with the Ottawa Senators, which included the Vegas Golden Knights paying $2 million of Brassard’s salary essentially in exchange for Ryan Reaves.
Brassard’s play has improved with the addition of Bryan Rust on his right wing, and Conor Sheary on the left. In Game 5 Brassard had a game-high eight shots on goal and a solid four hits. He has three points in the first five games.
Grinding center Carter Rowney would also figure to draw in if Malkin is unable to play. Rowney has been an integral penalty killer this season but does not provide much offensive upside.
Rowney, 28, had only five points in 44 games this season (2g, 3a). He played in 20 playoff games last season and recorded three assists. Rowney was the Penguins fourth line center when they won the Stanley Cup in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final last season.
Rowney has been a healthy scratch in this series, behind Riley Sheahan.
Officially, the Penguins have not ruled Malkin out. He is officially a “Game-time decision.” The final decision will be announced at 1 pm, tomorrow when Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan holds his pregame media availability. Or, Sullivan could choose to play mind games and not announce at all.
The Penguins lead the best of seven game series 3-2 and can eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers with a win.