Evgeni Malkin May Miss the Start of the Regular Season


With less than a week to go before the Pittsburgh Penguins open their regular season, mystery still surrounds the situation of centre Evgeni Malkin and his recent injury. Malkin has yet to participate in any on-ice sessions during the Penguins’ training camp, and, according to head coach Mike Johnston, the Russian superstar has not yet been cleared to work out in any capacity.

The Penguins coaching staff have repeatedly stated that Malkin’s injury is not serious, and have given out a series of repeating short-term timelines for his return. No indication has been given as to what exactly the injury is.

General Manager Jim Rutherford recently added that the team’s management will determine over the next few days whether Malkin will be able to suit up for the first game of the regular season. Unless Malkin makes a significant stride in his healing, it seems he may be forced to sit out the first game of the season in order to get some practice reps in, as his return to the ice will be the first after a long absence from any skating whatsoever.

While the team is divulging very little in terms of information on Malkin’s injury, one good sign is the fact that no one seems too concerned thus far, as there has been no mention yet of Malkin missing time long-term or considering any type of corrective procedures. Rather, they seem to be taking the wise route of giving Malkin as much as time as possible to rest and heal up while the games don’t count against the standings. Considering the Russian’s talent is among the best in the world, it seems unlikely his game will suffer too much from missing the preseason.

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At this point in his career, after missing significant time with injury over the last few seasons, Malkin’s primary concern before the start of the season should be ensuring he starts the year as healthy as possible. This mysterious absence may simply be him doing just that.

One player who probably won’t mind Geno taking some more time to rest up is young centre Oskar Sundqvist, who has thrown his name decidedly into the conversation of opening night starters with his excellent play during training camp. While he may not have been on anyone’s radar as an NHL starter this summer, Sundqvist has been impressive all camp, using his tremendous size (6’3, 209 lbs.) and skill to help the Penguins put up some preseason wins.

Coach Johnston and the Penguins management team have taken note, commenting that Sundqvist has looked great regardless of where they’ve put him in the lineup, causing them to seriously consider keeping him in the big leagues.

Just as Olli Maatta got a chance to prove himself at the NHL level due to injuries to key players, Sundqvist could benefit greatly if Malkin is forced to sit out the first game or more. If Malkin is in fact forced to watch from the press box, Brandon Sutter would slide up into his spot on the second line, with Sundqvist taking over centremen duties on either the third or fourth.

With the regular season set to start quite soon, fans need only wait a matter of days to be given answers to all of these roster questions.