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Penguins take 'cautious approach,' sit injured Malkin for week

| Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, 2:30 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin plays against the Blue Jackets on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin will miss at least two more games with a lower-body injury.

Evgeni Malkin's absence from the Penguins' practices and games, the result of an unspecified lower-body injury, will continue through the rest of this week, and it might last beyond that.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan after Tuesday's practice at Consol Energy Center ruled Malkin out for Wednesday's home game against the New York Rangers and Friday's game at Carolina. Where the center fits into the Penguins' plans after that hinges on how he responds to rehab work.

Asked if he foresees the need for any surgical procedure for Malkin, Sullivan answered, “No.”

“It's not long term, but I don't want to sit here and say it's day-to-day,” Sullivan said. “He's going to work with our medical staff. We're going to evaluate him on a daily basis as we go through this process.

“Hopefully, we can expedite this process as best we can. We obviously want him in our lineup, but we're also concerned that we do the right thing for our athletes and our team long term. That's all. We're just trying to make sure we take a cautious approach and make sure that when we do put him back in the lineup, he's ready to help us win.”

Malkin, who played in the Penguins' first game back from the All-Star break Feb. 2 and practiced the next day, joined the list of injured players Thursday, when Sullivan said the center brought the “nagging” ailment to the team's attention at the Feb. 3 practice. He's hampered by something that general manager Jim Rutherford said did not predate the All-Star break.

In each of their three games without Malkin, the Penguins managed to score three-plus goals.

“When you have a Geno out of the lineup, there's no way that anything can come in and replace Geno,” defenseman Trevor Daley said. “It's got to be by committee. I think we all obviously have to step up and bring a little bit more. I think we've done a good job of that, and for the guys that are the Sidney Crosbys of the world, you see how they're doing. When guys go down and they're called upon to bring more, it's amazing to watch them play.”

With Malkin unavailable, Matt Cullen has transitioned to the second-line center spot, where he skates alongside Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

In almost 71 minutes of five-on-five ice time together, Malkin, Kessel and Hagelin served as the Penguins' most dominant possession line. The team produced 72.93 shot attempts per 60 minutes with that trio on the ice, and allowed just 48.34 attempts, according to Puckalytics.com.

The Penguins scored six goals and allowed three with that line combination.

In 29 minutes of five-on-five play together, Cullen, Kessel and Hagelin allowed more shot attempts than they helped the Penguins create.

Cullen said the effort to coordinate each of the three players' skills is ongoing.

“When you have dynamic guys like that,” Cullen said, “it's all about giving them proper spacing.”

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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