As if the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup was not ravaged by injuries, their de facto leader Evgeni Malkin will also be out Thursday night when the Penguins host the Columbus Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena.
Curiosity peaked Thursday morning when the Penguins recalled forward Joseph Blandisi on an emergency basis. Head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed to reporters during his 5 p.m. gameday press availability that it was Malkin who was the latest to fall ill.
Malkin has 27 points (8g, 19a) in just 20 games this season and has been the Penguins lifeboat as injuries have claimed no less than a dozen players at different times this season, including captain Sidney Crosby. Malkin missed more one month after he was injured in the second game of the season. Alex Galchenyuk, Bryan Rust, Justin Schultz, and Kris Letang have also missed time this season. Patric Hornqvist, Brian Dumoulin, Crosby and Nick Bjugstad are currently on the IR.
The Penguins lineup is unsettled as Sullivan admitted he was not settled on a top-line center in place of Evgeni Malkin for Thursday night and the primary pivot could change throughout the game. Sullivan was able to confirm Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust would be the top-line wingers against Columbus.
The Penguins have the second most man-games lost in the NHL this season. They trail only Detroit, but the Penguins lead the league in the dubious category of significant man-games lost.
Blandisi has played 11 games this season, all as an emergency recall, He has three points (1g, 2a), including the game-winner against Minnesota in mid-October. The players who have missed time with the illness have not missed more than one game.