Penguins notebook: Malkin says he could be ready for contact at next practice
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Evgeni Malkin wants contact.
He hopes to get it Monday when the Penguins take the ice at New Jersey's Prudential Center for their next full practice.
Malkin will have missed seven consecutive games because of a left leg injury by then because he will not play for the Penguins on Sunday night at Columbus.
“I think I (will be) ready for contact, maybe, at the next practice,” Malkin said Saturday after participating in a noncontact session he described as “a little bit easy.”
Malkin is tied for fifth in NHL scoring with 41 points despite playing in eight fewer games than overall leader and fellow Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who has 55 points.
Malkin was injured while sliding backward into the end-zone boards at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 14. He did not suffer ligament damage.
Malkin said he is trying to “not rush” a return, even though he will play in no more than 18 games before the NHL breaks for the Winter Olympics that are being staged in his native Russia.
“It's sports life, everyone has injuries,” Malkin said. “You never know what's going on after injuries. I (hoped) it was short (term), but it (has been) a little bit longer and slow a little bit.
“It's fine. I (am) just working, and it (will be) a pretty short time before I come back.”
Another defensive addition will be available to the Penguins against Columbus.
Rob Scuderi, who has missed 29 consecutive games because of ankle surgery, is cleared to play against the Blue Jackets, he said Saturday.
“There's only so much you can do when you're not playing. I think I'm ready, but I also understand it's a coach's decision,” Scuderi said. “The doctors have said I'm OK to play. Now it's up to my comfort level.
“You certainly don't want to do a trial-and-error, but there's no other way to do it. You have to play games. You have to be in certain situations.”
Coach Dan Bylsma said Scuderi playing against Columbus was “possible,” though Scuderi was not part of the top three defense pairings at practice Saturday. He was paired with Brian Dumoulin.
Brooks Orpik (concussion) and Deryk Engelland (suspension) returned to the lineup in a win at Carolina on Friday night. The Penguins remain without Scuderi, Kris Letang (elbow) and Paul Martin (tibia), and of the three, only Scuderi is on the current road trip.
Seven in play
The Penguins have played four periods this season with their top four defensemen healthy.
If that happens again, Bylsma said he would consider dressing seven defensemen with Engelland floating between that position and fourth-line right winger.
Engelland played eight games as a forward early in the season, scoring two of his three goals from up front, including one in the Penguins' win at Columbus on Nov. 2.
“As a forward, he brought a significant amount physically, being able to play the position (and) puck protection down low,” Bylsma said.
“Does it make going seven defensemen with Derek (also) playing as a forward a possibility down the road? Yeah, it does.
“He's a playable, physical element that adds toughness to your lineup wherever you play him.”