PITTSBURGH -- The big news out of the morning skate at Consol Energy Center on Thursday morning is that Penguins center and second-leading NHL scorer Evgeni Malkin will not play against the Sharks, as he apparently suffered a lower body injury in warmups. Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed his star player would sit out against San Jose.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton and head coach Todd McLellan had differing opinions on the Penguins’ loss, when asked if they’d like to see Malkin in there to see how they match up with the top team in the Eastern Conference.
“Yeah, you want to play against their best lineup. You still want to win the game, but you want to see how you match up against the best teams in the East,” Thornton said. “It’s disappointing he got hurt, but we’re still in here to get the two points.”
When asked the same question, McLellan elicited laughter when he said: “Nope. Nope. How’s that?”
Malkin, the Penguins’ second line center behind the inimitable Sidney Crosby, will be missed. The eight-year player, and former Hart Trophy winner in 2012, leads the league with 30 assists and would have brought a nine-game scoring streak into the game against San Jose.
“It changes the dynamic of their team a little bit with power play and their lines, but one man does not make a team, and that is a team over there,” McLellan said. “They’ve been able to recover from injury losses in the past, and some nights they’ve even played better. Their team pulls together. Our approach won’t be any different, we know we’re in for a good, tough night and we better be ready for it.”
Thornton said: “They’re still an unbelievable team. … Ultimately, you’ve got two points on the line still, and then fly to Carolina. We’d like to win the first on back-to-back nights, and go from there.”
The Sharks have won their last six games, while Pittsburgh brings a four-game winning streak into tonight’s game.
“They still have a good team, no matter what,” former Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy said. “They’re going to play hard. It’s a big challenge for them to come in and try to beat us. I think we’re really rolling right now, and playing with a lot of confidence.”
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Antti Niemi will oppose Marc-Andre Fleury in net. The Sharks had an optional morning skate.