The topic when Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall spoke with reporters Monday was the trade to acquire forward Jeff Carter. But that move is perhaps tied to the injury status of a few regulars, and it led to Hextall disclosing that winger Brandon Tanev is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season.
Hextall couched his comment a bit by saying that with Tanev’s undisclosed injury, “That’s a difficult question,” but went on to say of Tanev, “I don’t believe will be back before the playoffs. That’s a tough injury to judge.”
Tanev, who could be described as an extreme energy guy, has proven capable of moving up and down the lineup as needed. He leads the team with 139 hits but is far from just a physical player. He has seven goals, 16 points in 32 games.
He missed six games beginning March 20, came back for two games, and now has been out for the past four games. Before he got hurt, Tanev had eight points in eight games.
Two other regular forwards, center Evgeni Malkin and winger Kasperi Kapanen, could be back before the playoffs, Hextall said. They were part of the Penguins’ second line when healthy.
Malkin, who has been out the past 13 games because of a suspected knee injury, has resumed skating. Kapanen, who has missed the past nine games after being hit by a puck in the ankle area, had not begun skating as of the weekend, but he seems to be the one whose timetable Hextall feels more comfortable with.
“(Kapanen) is probably the easiest (to predict). I would think (Kasparan) — I’m guessing — (is) somewhere in the 10- to 14-day range,” Hextall said.
“And (Malkin) is a little tougher (also), but I do believe (Malkin) will be back before the regular season ends.”
The Penguins’ regular season ends May 8. Getting Malkin (eight goals, 24 points in 29 games) and Kapanen (seven goals, 21 points in 30 games) back would be a boost. They were playing at a high level when they got hurt after slow starts.
“As good as we’re going right now, you bring ‘Geno’ and ‘Kappy’ back as a pair and you’re adding a couple of nice pieces,” Hextall said. “The benefit in all this, too, is also that coaches have had to put different lines together. You’ve seen Jared McCann’s line, they can go back to that line — whether they decide to put Jeff in the middle, Jared on the wing. The other thing it does is the guys coming back from injuries … This has been a tough season on the players physically. There’s a lot of guys that are tired and beat up and hurt. It’s given the guys that are hurt — they are going to come back and they’re going to be refreshed and ready to go the rest of the year.”