Pittsburgh Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan said Wednesday that forward Evgeni Malkin will not play against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the teams’ second-round Stanley Cup playoff series Thursday night.
Malkin, who is dealing with an apparent leg injury and did not play in Game 6 of Pittsburgh’s first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, skated in practice Wednesday and is expected to travel to Washington with the team. Pittsburgh will also be without forward Carl Hagelin, who left Game 6 against Philadelphia on Sunday with an upper-body injury. Hagelin will not travel with the team to Washington for Game 1.
While it appears Malkin could be ready for Game 2, Washington will get a first crack at the Penguins with a relatively healthier roster, albeit one without forward Andre Burakovsky.
Burakovsky is “week-to-week” with an undisclosed upper-body injury and is doubtful to play in the first half of the second-round series. Although Burakovsky is still nursing an ailment suffered on a hit in Game 2 of Washington’s first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he is expected to begin skating in the coming days, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said Wednesday.
“That’s going to happen very quickly,” Trotz said.
Burakovsky has not been on the ice since suffering the injury. He had minor surgery just last week, but Trotz is not ruling out his return to the lineup later in the series.
Burakovsky’s absence left a void on the second line in the Columbus series, with Trotz electing to promote rookie Chandler Stephenson to play next to mainstays Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. That turned out to be a productive move later in the series as Stephenson recorded two assists in a Game 5 win and his first career postseason goal in the decisive Game 6 that set up a second-round date with the Penguins for a third consecutive year.
Stephenson’s speed helps compensate for an ailing Oshie, who appears to be dealing with an undisclosed lower-body injury that has caused him to miss each practice since early in the Columbus series. Oshie has still been powering through his shifts each game, though, and although he didn’t participate in Wednesday’s skate, he is expected to be fully ready for Thursday night’s Game 1.
“We’ll have the same lineup. He’s fine,” Trotz said. “We’re just doing what we need. We tell players, if you need some time take it off, but if you’re ready to play, you’re ready to go, you’re in.”
Devante Smith-Pelly, who like Stephenson helped chip in important secondary scoring with a goal in the Game 6 win against Columbus, said that the most disappointing part of Burakovsky’s injury is that it occurred at a time when the talented Swede was playing with confidence. That will be something he will need to reestablish should he return to the lineup later in this series.
“It sucks to lose a guy in the playoffs, but at this point it’s just next guy up,” Smith-Pelly said. “We just have to keep moving forward until he comes back.”
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