Penguins notebook: Evgeni Malkin out, Bryan Rust in against Flyers
Just when the Pittsburgh Penguins were nearly healthy up front, they were dealt a massive blow on the injury front Sunday.
Evgeni Malkin will be out on a week-to-week basis with an upper-body injury, coach Mike Sullivan said after his team lost 2-1 in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sullivan did not go into detail about the nature of Malkin’s condition, but he was slow to get up after taking a cross-check to the ribs from St. Louis defenseman Robert Bortuzzo on Saturday afternoon. Malkin finished the game.
Malkin has been in and out of the lineup since Feb. 1, missing five games with an upper-body injury and one game with a suspension. He has been productive when on the ice during that span, recording seven goals and 16 points in 16 games.
Bryan Rust, meanwhile, played his first game since suffering a lower-body injury Feb. 26 in Columbus. Since he broke a 21-game goal drought with a hat trick Dec. 12 in Chicago, he is third on the team with 16 goals in 33 games.
“He’s an impact player for us when he’s in our lineup,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s shown that for most of the year.”
With Malkin out, Teddy Blueger shifted from left wing to center on the second line at the start of the game. Rust played on his left wing with Phil Kessel on the right.
When Phil Kessel took his first shift, he tied the Penguins record for most consecutive games played with 319.
The most interesting part of the record might be who he shares it with.
Craig Adams, who played 319 consecutive games from 2010-14, could be the exact opposite of Kessel when it comes to playing style.
Adams, a fourth-line grinder and penalty killer, played an entire 82-game season in 2009-10 without scoring a goal. Adams put together his ironman streak because of a hearty constitution that allowed him to withstand the physical rigors of NHL play.
Kessel is an elite offensive performer on pace to record his second straight point-per-game season. He owes much of his ironman streak, which has reached 765 games, eighth-most in NHL history, if his Toronto days are included, to his ability to avoid taking violent hits.
Among the 314 players who have played at least 1,000 minutes in the NHL this season, only 34 have taken fewer hits than Kessel (53).
The list includes some of the shiftiest players in the league, such as Columbus’ Cam Atkinson (24) and Artemi Panarin (39), Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov (34) and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux (41).
“There’s different ways to not get hit,” Sullivan said. “You can be elusive. You can move the puck, have a heightened awareness and move the puck so you don’t put yourself in those types of positions. I think Phil is more that type of a player.
“I think he moves the puck before the pressure gets to him so it gives him an opportunity to make his next play, or after he moves the puck, it gives him an opportunity to jump into space and present himself for maybe a return pass or whatever it may be. He has good vision. He has a sense of what’s around him. I just think that’s part of his skill set.”
Kris Letang, who participated fully in Friday’s practice, did not play against the Flyers, but Sullivan said he will join the team for a four-game road trip that begins Tuesday at Carolina.
Olli Maatta (shoulder), Zach Aston-Reese (lower body) and Chad Ruhwedel (upper body) remain out.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .