Minus Malkin, Penguins' offense, power play lacking some firepower
Evgeni Malkin had nothing to say Thursday.
His Penguins teammates cannot wait to hear his unmistakable banter — loud, short sentences broken up by curse words — during a game.
That especially goes for members of a top power-play unit that has produced one goal in five games.
“He brings a completely different element to the power play,” left winger Chris Kunitz said.
The wait for Kunitz and others may end Friday night.
Malkin has not been ruled out for a game against the Islanders at New York. He has missed the last six games with a shoulder injury and played in only three of the past 13 contests.
Coach Dan Bylsma declined to elaborate on Malkin's status after an hour-long practice at Consol Energy Center on Thursday. Officially, Malkin remains day-to-day.
The Penguins are 8-2-0 without the two-time scoring champion and reigning MVP.
Malkin is missed, though.
“I don't think we've had an in-zone shooting mentality, an attacking mentality, in his absence, and I think we need to establish it,” Bylsma said, specifically addressing what the power play has lacked without Malkin.
Added Kunitz: “Everybody knows we want to get pucks through, look for lanes and have guys shoot. Geno's good at finding that lane and wanting to shoot. Maybe that's something we lack when he's not out there.”
The Penguins are 4 for 18 (22.2 percent) on the power play without Malkin over the last six games. They have averaged five shots on the power play in those contests.
Overall, the Penguins were second with 28 goals on 115 power plays (24.4 percent) as of Thursday, but they are 7 for 31 (22.6 percent) in 10 games without Malkin.
The Penguins' lone recent power-play goal from their top unit — a group that includes center Sidney Crosby (50 points), Chris Kunitz and right winger James Neal (35 combined goals) — was scored by defenseman Paul Martin on Tuesday in a home win over Washington.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen played a role, as Bylsma noted.
Playing the off-side point — Niskanen is a right-handed shot — because of defenseman Kris Letang's groin injury, Niskanen was trigger happy against the Capitals.
Resulting zone possession led to quick puck movement. Crosby eventually found Martin wide open high near the mid-point, and Martin mashed a shot past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
A similar sequence, no matter if the finish is a goal, would please Bylsma for upcoming games against the Islanders and Philadelphia, clubs that each contributed to two of the Penguins' eight losses.
Inserting Malkin into the lineup could boost the Penguins, who are at some point due for a letdown from these10 consecutive wins. It also could boost Neal, who has gone 16 periods without a goal.
His power-play shots have decreased during Malkin's absence, Bylsma noted.
Neal scored three goals in as many games during Malkin's return from a concussion March 4-9. In the 10 games Malkin has missed, Neal has only two goals.
“I would be more alarmed if his production hadn't dropped off,” Bylsma said. “You're talking about (in Malkin) the best player in the game, an MVP.”
The Penguins have seen Malkin practice the last three days — the last two while taking contact. They would like to hear him talk Friday night.
They know he will bring more than words.
NOTE: Letang skated under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar before the Penguins' practice. His session lasted 47 minutes and it went smoothly aside from an early slide into the boards after his skate blade caught a rut in the ice. Letang said he went hard into the boards, but he was not hurt. He is day-to-day with the lower-body injury.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Steelers rising fast in mediocre AFC
- Heyward, swarming defense get best of Chiefs in Steelers’ win
- Steelers offense learning to slam door
- Pittsburgh mayor Peduto goes ‘Undercover’ for CBS reality show
- Norwin band director is finding lots of success in return to his alma mater
- Vigil honors 6 homeless who died in Pittsburgh in 2014
- Project to tear down former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital on schedule, Excela says
- Republican legislator estimates selling state liquor system could net $1B
- Police: NYC cop killer invited people to watch shooting
- Steelers-Bengals game to start at 8:30 p.m.
- SWAT teams surround Lincoln-Lemington home after shooting