Center Evgeni Malkin returned to practice Monday in Calgary. That was one shade of news for the Pittsburgh Penguins. On the flip side, red-hot winger Bryan Rust was not on the ice.
Malkin has missed the past two games because of illness. He is the third member of the team to sit out recently because of illness, and the first to miss more than one game. Coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin’s participation “was encouraging,” and called him a game-time decision for Tuesday against the Flames.
Rust, meanwhile, is the latest player to be hit by illness. He traveled with the team to Calgary but remained at the hotel while the team practiced, coach Mike Sullivan said.
“We’ll see how he is (Tuesday),” Sullivan said of Rust. “That’s the best I can do (in terms of a projection).”
Sullivan said energy level is a big determining factor when a player is coming off an illness.
Malkin said he was glad he got to practice, but indicated he was not yet 100 percent well. “I hope I feel better (Tuesday). Still a little bit sick.
“I want to play. Big games before Christmas. I don’t want to stay in my room all day, but … we’ll see (Tuesday).”
So it’s possible one, both or neither will play Tuesday when the Penguins open their annual Western Canadian swing with a game against the Flames at the Saddledome.
Rust, whose start to the season was delayed by a hand injury, has 12 goals, 22 points in 29 games. Saturday, he had two goals and an assist, then scored the winner in the shootout in the Penguins’ 5-4 win at home against the Los Angeles Kings.
Malkin returned to the top line and the top power play unit at practice Monday, along with Jake Guentzel, with Dominik Simon taking Rust’s place, according to the Penguins website.
The regular top-line center, team captain Sidney Crosby, remains out after core muscle injury. Center Nick Bjugstad is out after similar surgery. Winger Patric Hornqvist has a lower-body injury. And defenseman Brian Dumoulin had ankle surgery.