The eye test wasn’t the bottom line Wednesday after all. Although injured Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was in a white jersey, contrasting with all his teammates, at practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, and PHN reported he was still in non-contact mode, coach Mike Sullivan delivered a curveball afterward — one fans should be thrilled with.
“Geno participated full contact in practice,” Sullivan said if Malkin.
That would mean Malkin is all the closer to returning. Could he play as soon as Thursday at Washington? It would seem to be more of a possibility in light of Sullivan’s disclosure.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if Malkin played and Capitals sniper and fellow Russian star Alex Ovechkin did not? Ovechkin has missed the past two games and did not practice Wednesday because of a lower-body injury. Washington coach Peter Laviolette has listed Ovechkin as day-to-day.
If Ovechkin — who has never missed a game against Pittsburgh in his career — can’t play, “They lose a world-class scorer, and I’m probably stating the obvious when I say that,” Sullivan said. “He’s one of the best goal scorers of all time.”
Sullivan said the Penguins will prepare for the Capitals lineup with and without Ovechkin.
Perhaps Washington should do the same with Malkin.
Sullivan said all three injured players — Malkin, Frederick Gaudreau and Brandon Tanev — are traveling to Washington, where the Penguins play two games in a row.
About that white jersey Malkin wore while the rest of his teammates were in black or yellow: The use of contrasting jersey colors for injured players is not for the benefit of reporters or fans. It’s usually a visual reminder to teammates not to hit that player.
It’s not clear what Malkin’s teammates were told about his status. At one point during practice, Malkin went to the net. A player we didn’t identify was between Malkin and goaltender Tristan Jarry, and the body language suggested frustration with not being able to defend the net-front as a player normally would, something we attributed to a non-contact status.