It’s been too long since the Pittsburgh Penguins had anything resembling what would be their full roster. Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger were injured against the Boston Bruins one month ago. Kasperi Kapanen quickly followed, as did Brandon Tanev.
Blueger returned to the lineup in the last two games. Tanev returned from an upper-body injury on April 1. Then left the lineup again on April 3. The organization does not expect Tanev back before the end of the regular season.
There is no timetable for Malkin’s return though the organization expects him to return before the end of the regular season, which is currently scheduled for May 11.
On Monday GM Ron Hextall said Kapanen’s timeframe was 10-14 days. Based on that estimation, we could see Kapanen next week.
Head coach Mike Sullivan sounded optimistic on Friday afternoon when Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked not only about the physical health of Malkin and Kapanen, but also how the players are handling the emotional toll of missing the most significant part of the season.
“I think their mindsets are good. They’re all anxious to get back in the lineup–that’s just the I think the nature of their competitiveness. You know, these guys, they want to play,” Sullivan said. “They want to be in the lineup every night. So I think they’re anxious to for the time that they can get back in the lineup and help our team...they’re in good spirits.”
Malkin and Kapanen were on a tear through opponents when the Pittsburgh Penguins injury curse came calling for both. After a dreary start to the season, Malkin found his stride, literally. The Penguins generational talent was in the middle of an eight-game scoring streak with 12 points (4g, 8a) until Boston Bruins defenseman Jared Tinordi’s hard check in the corner and Malkin suffered a lower-body injury.
The streak encompassed 50% of Malkin’s season output. Overall, Malkin had 24 points (8g, 16a) in 29 games.
Kapanen hit Pittsburgh ice like a rocket after he was finally allowed to travel from Finland to the U.S. for the NHL season. COVID protocols held up his immigration status. However, Kapanen’s play was up and down after a hot start. Sullivan even benched Kapanen for the third period on Feb. 20, which spurred Kapanen’s second wave.
Kapanen had 14 points (5g, 9a) in the 13 games after his Sullivan imposed punishment.
“I think they’re all making progress. Geno and Kappy are skating, they’re making encouraging progress on the ice,” Sullivan said. “Tanev has not skated yet to this point. He’s continuing his rehab off the ice, but they’re all making progress. And that’s the encouraging thing.”
The Penguins will finish their whirlwind regular season with 13 games in 21 days as the charge towards their 15th consecutive postseason appearence.