The Pittsburgh Penguins will enter their game Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins down a few players. They will be missing forwards Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bonino and defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
Both Malkin and Bonino returned to practice on Tuesday, but were still ruled out for the game on Wednesday. Malkin has been out of the lineup since Feb. 2 with a lower-body injury. Bonino has been out since Feb. 12 with a hand injury.
According to an article on NHL.com, the pair joined the practice in non-contact yellow jerseys, but later suited up in normal jerseys. This is a good sign for the team despite having neither returning to the lineup against Boston.
The team will have a decent break between their game against the Bruins and their next game against the Winnipeg Jets who they’ll play on Feb. 27. Malkin and Bonino will have a few more days to rest and practice with the team then before their next chance to return to the lineup.
Lovejoy was injured in the Penguins game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday Feb. 20. According to the same article, he has been ruled out long-term because of an upper-body injury.
While these three players have been out the Penguins have had to look to other members of their team to make it happen. Phil Kessel has had a good streak as of late. He’s had four goals in the last five games. He’s now fourth on the team in points with 38; 19 goals and 19 assists.
Since he didn’t have the start to the season everyone thought he would, this is promising for the future of the team. The thing is the Penguins as a whole also didn’t have the start to their season many would have expected.
This can be seen with the fact that even with only playing 49 of 58 games, Malkin is second on the team in points with 49. He has 23 goals and 26 assists. Captain Sidney Crosby leads the team with 56 points; 25 goals and 31 assists and Kris Letang rounds out the top three with 45 points; 9 goals and 36 assists.
However, it hasn’t just come down to the top guys while they have had some missing links. Scott Wilson had a goal against the Buffalo Sabers on Sunday and now has goals in three straight games. He’s a rookie for the team and has played in 15 games. He has three goals and one assist.
Also on their side is the Penguins will enter their game against the Bruins with a record of 3-0-1 in their last four road games. On the other hand the Bruins haven’t been playing very well at home and lost 6-4 Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Therefore, it seems like even down a few men the Penguins would have the upper hand coming into TD Garden on Wednesday night. However, after losing at home Boston is bound to bring their best game because they know their play isn’t to the level they want it to be. Boston also took the first two games of the regular season series back in December.
There’s also the added pressure of the Rivalry Night stage. And then of course, as with every game now, there is the pressure of the standings. The Penguins will go into the game with 68 points. They are fourth in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the New York Islanders. The Islanders earned two in their win on Feb. 23 against the Minnesota Wild.
If the Penguins can earn two points on Wednesday night, they once again move to being one point behind the Islanders and another step closer to moving out of the Wild Card spot and into the top three in their division.
It won’t be easy and there will be a lot of back and forth between the Islanders and Penguins in the standings to come, but the Penguins certainly have the team to make that move. And once Malkin and Bonino return they’ll have two more very capable members to help them make it happen.