Penguins notebook: Malkin picture muddy

| Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, 6:27 p.m.

DETROIT — The injury keeping Evgeni Malkin out this preseason is one the franchise center suffered in the United States — not Russia — Penguins coach Mike Johnston said.

And with four scheduled practices left before the Penguins' first regular-season game Oct. 9, Malkin doesn't have a lot of time left to prepare.

Many may be freaking out. Johnston is not one of them.

“I haven't been on the ice with Geno before,” Johnston said after the Penguins practiced Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “I know when (captain Sidney Crosby) has been in and out here and he's come back to practice, he's been really good.

“Because of the time I spent (in Russia), I know the type of training (Malkin) was doing. He did have an on-ice skills guy working on the ice the last month. He's done a significant amount of work on the ice and off the ice.”

On Sept. 18, the day before the first camp practice, Johnston said he expected Malkin's absence from an undisclosed injury to be “fairly short.”

Johnston said a week later that no additional tests or evaluation had been required; they're “waiting it out.”

On Friday, Johnston amended the original timetable, setting it another four to five days.

It has now been five days since that point, and Malkin is showing no signs of a return.

So, will four practices be enough?

“I expect his conditioning should be good, but his sharpness … it's tough,” Johnston said. “Those four practices are going to be good, quality practices because we go Saturday, Sunday, then we have a day off Monday.

“We get two more before the (opener).”

Does that mean Malkin will be back Saturday?

“As far as I know, he hasn't been cleared to work out,” Johnston said. “Once he's cleared to work out, it will be a progression to get on the ice.”

Crosby expected to play vs. Red Wings

Johnston said he had not spoken with Crosby when he met with the media early Tuesday afternoon out of respect given the ongoing funeral for Crosby's grandmother.

Johnston did expect to talk with Crosby at some point Tuesday.

“If his travel plans are set and good,” Johnston said, “he's definitely going to be in the lineup (Wednesday at Red Wings).”

Retreat scrapped

The Penguins had planned a two-day retreat Thursday and Friday but instead will stay in Pittsburgh.

Johnston said they have hired a company called the Matishak Group (MGI) to train and motivate personnel through a series of games and activities.

MGI is based out of Edmonton, Alberta, and has worked with several NHL teams, including the Flames, Flyers, Kings, Rangers and Canucks.

Pair headed to Wilkes-Barre

Defenseman Philip Samuelsson and forward Pierre-Luc Leblond cleared waivers Tuesday and will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Maatta still out

Johnston said defenseman Olli Maatta will not play Wednesday. Maatta is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and will consequently miss all six preseason games. He has been a regular participant in practice.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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