One step forward and two more steps back. The Pittsburgh Penguins quest for a healthy roster might be more akin to the whack-a-mole game at Chuck-E-Cheese’s. When the Penguins get close, more absences pop up. But they will get one big addition to their lineup on Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks when superstar Evgeni Malkin rejoins the lineup.
Head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the news after the Penguins’ optional morning skate. The Penguins visit the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.
“He’s practiced for quite a while. I think he looks really strong. He’s in great shape. He’s skating really well,” Sullivan said. “I think he’s such a talented guy. He’s the type of player that has the ability to have an impact immediately. And I’m sure he will in this game.”
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Malkin, 35, has not yet played this season after undergoing right knee surgery on or before June 4. Last season, he scored 28 points (8-20-28) in 33 games before suffering the knee injury in a collision with Boston Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi on March 16. Malkin returned to score five points (1-4-5) in four playoff games against the New York Islanders.
However, a subsequent MRI showed his knee was worse, and after considering the options, he had surgery. This is the final year of Evgeni Malkin’s contract, though he joked money isn’t a big factor, “I’m like a pretty rich guy.”
On Monday at practice, Malkin skated with Jeff Carter on the LW and Kasperi Kapanen on the RW.
Also, on Tuesday, Zach Aston-Reese entered COVID protocol for the second time this season. Sullivan said his defensive winger is asymptomatic, which means he could return to the lineup in five days (Wednesday counts as Day 1). Aston-Reese has eight points (1-7-8) in 32 games this season.
Winger Danton Heinen will miss his reunion with his former team, the Anaheim Ducks, as well. Heinen tested positive and has symptoms, according to Sullivan.
Heinen, 26, has 16 points (9-7-16) in 34 games.
According to PuckPedia.com, the Penguins were over the salary cap until Aston-Reese and Heinen tested positive. In protocol, the Penguins will remain just under the cap. Bryan Rust, Brock McGinn, and Casey DeSmith are also in the protocol. The Penguins played with 11 forwards on Saturday.
Rust is also symptomatic, according to Sullivan.
On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins called up Radim Zohorna and Anthony Angello to the Taxi Squad. Presumably, they will play on Tuesday. The Penguins have not announced additional call-ups.