Just three games into the 2011-12 season, the Pittsburgh
Penguins again found themselves missing their two star players.
They’ll have to play without both of them at least once
The Penguins open their home schedule Tuesday night against the
Florida Panthers without Evgeni Malkin, who will miss his second
straight game with a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh (2-0-1) returns home after a promising road trip to
western Canada. Following wins over Vancouver and Calgary, the
Penguins fell 2-1 in a shootout to Edmonton on Sunday.
The Oilers scored with 4:55 left in regulation, then Pittsburgh
failed to capitalize on a late five-minute power play.
“We got five out of six points,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I like
that. We got some wins in tough places. We’ve played a lot of
hockey already and I think that showed in this game. A lot of guys
got taxed. But we’re happy with our start.”
While Bylsma said several players were sore after the opening
weekend, none may be as concerning as Malkin. With Pittsburgh
already missing Sidney Crosby, who’s still working his way back
from post-concussion symptoms, Malkin was scratched following
pregame warmups Sunday due to a lower-body injury.
He took part in the team’s morning skate Tuesday, but Bylsma
ruled him out for the Penguins’ home opener. Bylsma has been vague
about the injury – which is believed to have occurred in the third
period Saturday at Calgary – but has acknowledged it isn’t related
to Malkin’s knee surgery to repair two torn ligaments, which
knocked him out for last season in early February.
“We do not think it’s long-term or anything other than just
being sore at this point and time,” Bylsma told the team’s official
While the Penguins are downplaying concerns about Malkin, they
appear to have little to be worried about with the club’s special
teams. Pittsburgh had the league’s top-ranked penalty-kill unit in
2010-11 and hasn’t allowed a goal in 11 opportunities this
The Penguins also have five power-play goals in 16 chances after
ranking 25th last season at 15.8 percent.
Pittsburgh lost its first three home games in regulation last
season, but finished 25-14-2 on its own ice – not including the
playoffs, when it dropped its final three at Consol Energy Center
while being eliminated by Tampa Bay.
The Penguins will try for a better home start against Florida
(1-0-0), which opened its season with a 2-0 road victory over the
New York Islanders on Saturday in Kevin Dineen’s NHL coaching
Stephen Weiss, who had a team-high 49 points last season, and
Jason Garrison scored in the first period while Jose Theodore made
27 saves for his 31st career shutout.
The Panthers had the worst record in the Eastern Conference last
season, but were busy in the offseason, with Theodore and
defenseman Brian Campbell among the new additions. Campbell
assisted on both goals and led Florida skaters in ice time by more
than five minutes Saturday.
“Everybody came through tonight,” Theodore said. “They were
clearing the rebounds (and) I was seeing the puck. We really worked
well as a unit. They were letting me see the puck. We were all on
the same page.”
The Penguins took all four meetings with the Panthers last
season, and they’ve won five straight and eight of nine between the
teams at home.