Malkin sharp, but it's not enough in Penguins' loss to Sabres at Consol
Tuesday mattered for Evgeni Malkin.
Returning after a four-game absence because of a nagging right shoulder injury, he played more than 21 minutes, attempted six shots and won 11 of 18 faceoffs.
The Penguins lost, 4-2, to the Buffalo Sabres at Consol Energy Center, snapping a seven-game winning streak.
However, with the Eastern Conference's top seed theirs, the strong showing from Malkin provided the narrative.
“He was flying,” said right winger Jarome Iginla, whose power-play goal in the third period was his fourth marker in as many games.
Malkin assisted on that goal — and, as Iginla viewed it, “creating something almost every shift.”
“He was taking guys with him, really making plays,” Iginla said.
Malkin was not available for comment, nor was defenseman Brooks Orpik.
A lower-body injury prevented him from finishing this loss, and coach Dan Bylsma said he did not want to speculate as to whether Orpik could have returned.
Orpik was to be re-evaluated, Bylsma said.
Right winger Tyler Kennedy was not injured, Bylsma said. Still, Kennedy did not dress. Bylsma did not say if that is a sign for Game 1 of the playoffs, which will begin no sooner than May 1 for the Penguins.
Kennedy, with six goals and 11 points in 44 games, likely was targeted for the fourth line after deals by general manager Ray Shero to acquire Iginla and fellow winger Brenden Morrow. The broken jaw that has prevented Sidney Crosby from playing convinced Shero to add one more player.
That player, forward Jussi Jokinen, has scored four goals in eight games with the Penguins.
The return of Malkin to something similar from his past form is what the Penguins would most like to see even if Crosby, defenseman Paul Martin (broken thumb) and right winger James Neal (concussion) are readying for Game 1 against a to-be-determined playoff opponent.
A former regular-season and playoff MVP, and two-time scoring champion, Malkin has grown frustrated this season by his personal dip in production and the shoulder injury that has caused him to miss a combined 13 contests. He also missed four games with a concussion, and had posted eight goals and 30 points in 29 games.
Bylsma noted Malkin's “puck possession (by) holding people off.”
Defenseman Matt Niskanen said Malkin was “wheeling and dealing, making good plays.”
Not enough to fuel another win, but enough for the Penguins to believe the best of Malkin is still to come at just the right time.