Hockey injuries are a closely guarded secret. When a coach says a player is a game-time-decision that is as much information as most teams will give. However, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jared McCann might have let the cat out of the bag.
Speaking to reporters following the morning skate Thursday, McCann promised the Penguins would have a different result against Detroit than they did Tuesday when the Penguins lost 4-1.
What will be different?
“We had some guys out of the lineup with injuries and stuff like that,” McCann said. “We’ve got some guys back tonight.”
You may notice the plural and assured nature of McCann’s comment.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to team activity yesterday after missing the last four games due what Letang admitted was lingering difficulty which stemmed from his injury in the Stadium Series game Feb. 23.
Letang was evasive Wednesday morning and again Thursday.
Head coach Mike Sullivan was similarly coy when asked about the status of each player.
“Malkin and Letang are game time decisions,” Sullivan offered.
Malkin has been out of the lineup since March 16. He resumed skating nearly two weeks ago and joined the team in a non-contact sweater for the first time yesterday.
Letang who missed most of 12 games after a first period injury on Feb. 23, played theee games on the Penguins recent Western Conference road trip. He registered a point in each game (1g, 2a) but said yesterday he was not comfortable.
Letang played at least 24 minutes in each of those three games and over 27 minutes in one of them.
This season, Letang has 56 points (16g, 40a) in 64 games.
“It’s a huge confidence booster (that they’re back). Those are guys who are a huge part of this team and we’re excited to have them back tonight.”
Even if Malkin and Letang’s status are unofficial, it’s clear the locker room is expecting the pair to return.
The Penguins magic number is just two point and their magic number to guarantee at least third place is three points. Third place would likely mean a Round One date with the New York Islanders.
The Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings tonight at PPG Paints Arena.
Teddy Blueger worked on the left wing in practice, Wednesday. Fellow rookie Adam Johnson will likely be the healthy scratch, as will defenseman Zach Trotman if Letang returns.