Some teammates spied Evgeni Malkin walking normally late Friday night.
That was a far greater development for the Penguins than their 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at Consol Energy Center.
Malkin, the reigning MVP and a two-time scoring champion, did not return after hitting the back of his head hard off the end-zone boards with 15:09 remaining in the third period.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Malkin will be re-evaluated Saturday, though Bylsma also noted Malkin left the ice “on his own accord.”
If they are to play a stretch without Malkin — and there was no indication Friday night if he would be available against Tampa Bay on Sunday night — at least the Penguins remain deep at the center position despite trading Jordan Staal last summer.
Bylsma said Brandon Sutter, acquired in the Staal trade to Carolina, would fill Malkin's spot as the second-line center alongside James Neal, a right winger, and rookie left winger Beau Bennett.
Dustin Jeffrey, who played in his sixth game Friday night and scored his first goal, would anchor a third line with Matt Cooke on the left wing and Tyler Kennedy on the right, Bylsma said.
“Hopefully it doesn't come to that,” Neal said of the Penguins needing to shuffle their regular lines because of a potential injury to Malkin.
Neither Neal nor any Penguins players took issue with Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who raced Malkin to the spot in the Florida zone where Malkin was upended and slid back-first into the boards.
Neal noted that Malkin had entered the zone with great speed, darting toward the crease near the goal line.
The game tied 1-1, Gudbranson simply was making what pla
Malkin hurt in Penguins’ win over Florida
Pittsburgh Tribune Review | Feb 23