Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin will miss the next six-to-eight weeks with an upper-body injury, the team announced on Saturday.
Malkin suffered the injury during Friday’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets when he awkwardly tried to lay a hit on Columbus defender Dalton Prout.
The bad news is the length of the injury, as it will force Malkin to miss the rest of the regular season and playoff time. The Russian forward had been dynamite for the Penguins, producing at over a point-per-game pace with 27 goals and 58 points in 57 games. Malkin had prominently played on a line with Phil Kessel, and the duo were generating goals and controlling possession for the Pens.
Pittsburgh’s depth at center also takes an enormous hit, as Nick Bonino, who has all of 13 points, is penciled in behind Sidney Crosby on the depth chart. He’ll slot in Malkin’s place on Saturday night, centering Kessel and Carl Hagelin. Matt Cullen will center the third line, and Eric Fehr the fourth. Bonino, Cullen, and Fehr are bottom-six centers who obviously will come nowhere close to reproducing at Malkin’s level.
Pittsburgh currently sits in the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, just three points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, so the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. Malkin is an elite center, and taking him out of the equation will severely cripple Pittsburgh’s playoff chances.