Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad out ‘longer term’ with injuries
The Penguins have boasted about the depth and versatility their roster — specifically their cache of forwards — possessed entering the 2019-20 campaign.
Each of those traits will be put to the test during the ensuing weeks (or possibly months).
Penguins centers Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad are expected to be sidelined “longer term” due to undisclosed injuries, according to coach Mike Sullivan.
The specific nature or severity of either player’s ailment was not revealed, but Sullivan suggested Malkin would require more time to recover than Bjugstad.
Both players left Saturday’s 7-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets due to their ailments. Malkin was injured at 8:04 of the second period after he tripped over defenseman Kris Letang’s skate then collided with Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and into the boards in front of the Penguins’ benches.
Sullivan said Malkin’s injury would not be season-ending. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Malkin will miss at least a month with a soft-tissue injury.
Bjugstad left the contest at 7:03 of the third. It was not apparent what may have plagued him.
Their absences leave a considerable void down the middle of their lines and will prompt a reshuffling of their remaining forwards.
Jared McCann, who opened the season as the third line left wing, moved to the second line center position on Saturday and remained there during Monday’s practice in Cranberry. He skated with Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Tanev on his wings.
“It should be easy,” McCann said of moving between positions, “I grew up playing center. If they call me to be that kind of guy, I’ll be ready for it.”
McCann, who was selected in the first round of the 2014 draft by the Vancouver Canucks as a center, doesn’t have a preference for either the center or left wing.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I just want to play. I’ve been given a great opportunity here.”
While the top line of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon remained status quo, a third line of the four other able-bodied forwards was cobbled together as Patric Hornqvist skated in a rotation with Zach-Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger and Dominik Kahun, a trio which opened Saturday’s game as the fourth line.
Kahun played center throughout his junior career as well as his professional career in Germany but has strictly been used as a winger in the NHL since debuting last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Sullivan said Kahun could be a candidate to see time at center.
The Penguins called up a pair of forwards — Hollidaysburg native Sam Lafferty and free-agent addition Andrew Agozzino — from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday evening.
Agozzino, who spent the first seven seasons of his pro career in the Colorado organization before signing with the Penguins in July, was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s top-line center in a a 4-3 season-opening road win over the Hershey Bears on Saturday night.
Lafferty, who the Penguins selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, opened the season as the right wing on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first line. He was the AHL club’s top-scoring forward last season with 49 points in 70 games.
However the new players slot in, the Penguins’ lineup up front will have a considerably different look when they face the Winnipeg Jets at PPG Paints on Tuesday.
“Whenever players go down, it provides an opportunity for someone else to step up,” Sullivan said. “That’s just the nature of our business. Fortunately, we have some guys that we can put into the center ice position that have familiarity and a comfort level there. Jared already made an impact in the last game. He’s a guy that we can put in the center ice position. He’ll probably play a more significant role. It’s a great opportunity.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .