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Malkin will not play tonight against New Jersey

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011

Previously well stocked, the Penguins are running out of all-star centers.

Evgeni Malkin will join Sidney Crosby as absentees when the Penguins play the New Jersey Devils at 7 tonight at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Malkin has been struggling with a shaky left knee, and he fell last Saturday during a game in Boston. His ice time was limited Tuesday during the Penguins' 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Consol Energy Center.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on Wednesday refused to reveal the nature of the injury.

"He's not feeling well and is getting evaluated," Bylsma said.

Bylsma also said he doesn't know how long the Penguins will be without Malkin, the team's third-leading scorer with 15 goals, 22 assists and 37 points.

"We don't know if it's going to be a day or through the all-star break," he said.

After tonight, the Penguins have two more games — Saturday and Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders, respectively, at Consol — before the NHL All-Star Game Jan. 30.

Malkin and Crosby are two of the Penguins voted to the game by fans. Defenseman Kris Letang and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, selected to their first All-Star Game, are the others.

Tonight will be the first time this season the Penguins will play without Malkin and Crosby, who will miss his seventh consecutive game because of a concussion.

The recent return of center Jordan Staal from hand and foot injuries raised the hope that the Penguins could consistently get Staal, Malkin and Crosby in the lineup together. But that happened only twice — Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals and Jan. 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Crosby was hit in the head in both games, and he has not played since. The Penguins are 3-2-1 in that time, and Staal and left wing Chris Kunitz have scored goals in each of the past three games. Malkin hasn't scored a goal in six games since the Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 8-1, on Jan. 5.

"We've had games with just Sid, and we've had games with just Geno," Bylsma said. "And now we're going to go with just Jordan."

The Penguins have recalled forward Dustin Jeffrey from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and he will be available tonight.

Bylsma said playing without Malkin on the power play and at center won't be easy.

"Mark Letestu is going to have to play a bigger role," Bylsma said. "Chris Conner and lots of guys are going to have to play more minutes to fill the void."

Letestu, who has nine goals and 10 assists in his rookie season, signed a two-year contract extension earlier this week.

Bylsma said Letestu will get a chance to show that it was money well spent.

"Thank goodness we got him locked up for a few years," he said, "because he's going to break out (tonight) and be worth a lot more."

Note: Penguins highlights, player interviews, PensTV programming, and features and in-game videos that appear on the Consol Energy Center scoreboard will be available — free and On Demand — to Verizon's FiOS TV customers, the company announced yesterday.

Additional Information:

Scouting report

Penguins at Devils

7 p.m. today, Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

(FSN; WXDX-FM 105.9, Penguins Radio Network)

Season series: Penguins lead, 2-0. They won, 3-1, on Oct. 11 in New Jersey and, 2-1, on Dec. 6 at Consol Energy Center.

Streak: Won 3

Who to watch: Center Mark Letestu, who signed a two-year contract extension Tuesday, will be among those players called upon to pick up their games to compensate for the absence of Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed). Letestu has nine goals and 10 assists in his rookie season.

Trends: Among players slated to be in the lineup tonight, defenseman Kris Letang, who was voted to the All-Star Game for the first time, and left wing Chris Kunitz are the Penguins' top scorers. They have 40 and 32 points. ... Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has played in five consecutive games, a stretch in which the Penguins are 3-2 and have allowed 13 goals. Opponents have five goals during the Penguins' three-game winning streak.

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