It was uncomfortable to watch, and viewers could almost feel the pain that Evan Rodrigues felt when Mike Matheson’s slap shot made direct contact with the inside of Rodrigues’ skate. The Pittsburgh Penguins winger went down in obvious and severe pain.
It took several moments and additional help to get Rodrigues off the ice and to the locker room. He did not return to the game on Thursday as the Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 5-4 in OT. However, either head coach Mike Sullivan is downplaying the injury because it’s playoff time, or Rodrigues escaped serious injury.
“Right now, his status is day-to-day with a lower-body injury,” said Sullivan. “We’ll update you each day with respect to Evan.”
And that was it. One would think if Rodrigues suffered a more severe injury, he would have been placed on IR or termed week-to-week, or Sullivan’s recent go-to, “longer-term.”
Perhaps the injury bug spared the Penguins for once.
Sullivan also offered a soft update on center Evgeni Malkin, a full participant in practice on Wednesday, and winger Brandon Tanev, who GM Ron Hextall expected to miss the rest of the regular season.
“Geno skated again today. Tans skated again today. They’re making progress, and at this point, their status has not changed. When that happens, we’ll let you guys know,” Sullivan replied.
Tanev returned to the Penguins lineup on April 1 after missing a few weeks with an upper-body injury. However, he left the lineup again on April 3, also with an upper-body injury. The Penguins have not specifically linked the two absences.
Evgeni Malkin was injured on March 16 against the Boston Bruins. In the midst of a season revival-type hot streak, Boston defenseman Jared Tinordi leveled Malkin with a clean open-ice hit near the corner wall. Replays showed Malkin’s leg bend awkwardly, and he has been out since with a lower-body injury.
This season, Malkin overcame a slow start to score 24 points (8-16-24) in 29 games. The Pittsburgh Penguins have five games remaining in the regular season and clinched a playoff berth on Thursday night. They are currently tied with the Washington Capitals atop the East Division. Washington is ahead with a better winning percentage via one game in hand.
The Penguins and Capitals tussle again on Saturday. On Thursday morning, Sullivan termed Malkin a “game-time decision,” so that designation is unlikely to change, but Malkin is still on LTIR.