In news no Pittsburgh Penguins fans wanted to hear, coach Mike Sullivan announced Monday that centers Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad would be out “longer term” because of lower-body injuries they sustained Saturday.
“We would expect Geno (Malkin) to be a little bit longer,” Sullivan said, but added that the injury is not season-threatening.
Malkin is the team’s second-line center and one of its core players. He had a subpar season – by his standards – last year and had a well-chronicled rigorous offseason and seemed headed for a bounce-back season. He scored the team’s only goal in its opener.
Bjugstad, acquired at the trade deadline last season, has been centering the third line and killing penalties.
The Penguins play the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena, the first of apparently several without the two centers.
The Penguins already have a winger, Bryan Rust, on the long-term injured list because of a hand injury.
Malkin left Saturday’s win over Columbus about midway through the game. He appeared to trip over the skates of teammate Kris Letang at center ice, then slid into the boards and took a hit from a Blue Jackets player. He limped down the runway. Malkin was seen at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex Monday and showed no apparent limp, but that didn’t mitigate the news surrounding him.
Bjugstad left in the third period of that game. It was not clear how he got hurt.
The Penguins practiced with just 10 forwards Monday at the practice facility. It would seem imperative that they bring in at least one forward from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League before the Jets game Tuesday.
The team is carrying nine defensemen, so one option would be to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
“That’s something that we’re continuing to discuss right now,” Sullivan said of how the lineup will shape up without Malkin and Bjugstad.
At practice, the top line of Sidney Crosby centering Jake Guentzel and Dominik Simon remained the same from Saturday. Jared McCann, who moved from third-line winger to fill in for Malkin and scored twice Saturday, remained in that spot Monday between Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Tanev.
That left four forwards on a hybrid third/fourth line.