Penguins notebook: Malkin, Letang could return to lineup soon

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 12:00 p.m.

Neither center Evgeni Malkin nor defenseman Kris Letang played Tuesday against the Capitals at Consol Energy Center.

However, both players appear to be close to returning to the lineup.

Malkin met with the media following Tuesday's morning skate — he participated in the workout — and said he is shooting for a return to the lineup Friday against the Islanders in New York.

“I miss my team,” Malkin said. “And I hope to play on Friday.”

Malkin has been nursing a shoulder injury that was sustained March 9 in Toronto.

The Penguins are scheduled to practice Wednesday and Thursday, and Malkin said that practice time should be enough to convince him that a return Friday is plausible.

“Practiced with the team for the first time (Tuesday),” Malkin said. “This is the first step of my (recovery). I feel good.”

Letang's situation is slightly more unclear, but his lower-body injury — sustained Sunday against Boston — is not believed to be serious.

Coach Dan Bylsma called Letang “day-to-day.” Letang didn't participate in Tuesday's morning skate. He left Sunday's game late in the first period.

• Left wing Matt Cooke was not present at Tuesday's morning skate, prompting Bylsma to call him a “game-time decision.” However, Cooke played against Washington. He briefly left Saturday's game against the Rangers after blocking a shot. There was concern that he would not play Sunday against the Bruins, but he hasn't missed any time.

• Bylsma noted before the game that if Cooke was unable to play the Penguins possibly would use seven defensemen. However, since Cooke played, rookie defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was a healthy scratch.

• Washington center Brooks Laich, made his season debut Tuesday against the Penguins. Laich had missed the Capitals' first 29 games because of a severe groin injury.

• Sunday's game between the Penguins and Flyers at Consol Energy Center has been moved to a 7:30 p.m. start to accommodate the NBC Sports Network.

— Josh Yohe

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