Share This Page

Penguins' Malkin practices with contact, still no target for return

| Sunday, March 3, 2013, 2:24 p.m.
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin celebrates his first-period goal against the Flyers on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at Consol Energy Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Nine players missed practice for the Penguins on Sunday.

The most valuable Penguin was not among that group of absentees.

Center Evgeni Malkin, the NHL's reigning MVP, practiced with teammates at Southpointe Iceoplex a week after he was diagnosed with a concussion.

He will not play against Tampa Bay at Consol Energy Center on Monday night, but Malkin said his first brush with contact since the concussion left him feeling “pretty good.”

“I (had) a good practice, but I need a couple more,” Malkin said.

“(Sunday) was not hard, just tough a little bit. (I) pushed my back and shoulders. I feel pretty good. We'll see the next step.”

Cleared Sunday by the Penguins' medical staff for return-to-contact status, Malkin participated in three drills that involved physicality, coach Dan Bylsma said.

Malkin had not taken a baseline cognitive examination as of Sunday morning, Bylsma said. NHL protocol calls for players diagnosed with a concussion to pass a version of that exam before gaining return-to-play status.

The Penguins use the ImPACT test, which was originated by the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

The Penguins (14-8-0, 28 points) remain first in the Atlantic Division despite going 2-2-0 in games missed by Malkin, who was injured on a collision into the end-zone board at Consol Energy Center on Feb. 22.

Malkin said Sunday that he is not experiencing short-term memory loss or headache — two of many symptoms commonly associated with a concussion — and that he was not upset by the hit from Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson that preceded his fall and crash into the boards.

“I (watched) it 10 times; (it was) no penalty,” Malkin said, adding that he lost balance while trying to shoot the puck near the goal crease.

“I just (lost) my position. Short ice, you know — and I hit the boards.”

Malkin had not spoken publicly since he was injured.

Now that there are no fears his concussion is similar to the one that kept captain Sidney Crosby from playing all but eight games from Jan. 6, 2011, to March 15, 2012, the Penguins could look back upon Malkin's injury as an unintended positive.

He played in 37 games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League during the NHL lockout, and had played in each of the Penguins' 18 contests before his injury.

Off to a slow start with four goals and 21 points — the latter a total that rated ninth in the NHL at the time — Malkin use this break to refocus. He has said he was drained emotionally by the experience of again playing with his hometown team in the KHL.

After facing the Lightning, the Penguins are at Philadelphia on Thursday, at Toronto on Saturday and home against the New York Islanders on Sunday.

They will play at least one of those games without defenseman Paul Martin, too.

He tested a lower-body injury during a pre-practice skate with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Martin is day-to-day, Bylsma said.

The other eight players who didn't practice Sunday are among the Penguins' top scorers, including Crosby and wingers Chris Kunitz and James Neal. All are expected to play against Tampa Bay.

“A number of guys were held off the ice because of bumps and bruises and just given the schedule,” Bylsma said.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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.