4:15pm: Both Malkin and Bjugstad have been placed on injured reserve. In their place the Penguins have recalled Sam Lafferty and Andrew Agozzino under emergency conditions from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Malkin suffered a soft tissue injury and is expected to be out at least a month.
11:45am: The Pittsburgh Penguins have already been dealt a debilitating blow in their quest for a Metropolitan Division playoff spot. Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad will both be out “longer term” with injuries according to head coach Mike Sullivan, though he did confirm that Malkin’s is not expected to be a season-ending one. Even if it doesn’t put him on the shelf all year, losing Malkin for a long period of the season is a huge hit to the Penguins’ chances, as they were hoping for a strong bounce-back season from the veteran center.
Malkin was injured when he was hit by Columbus Blue Jackets defender Vladislav Gavrikov and pinned up against the boards on Saturday. He suffered a lower-body injury and will have to watch from the press box as Pittsburgh tries to stay afloat. The 33-year old center recorded just 21 goals last season, the fewest he’s ever had in a year in which he played more than 50 games. That still came with 51 assists to give him 72 points in just 68 games, but by all accounts his season wasn’t up to the standard he had set previously. After working hard to re-establish his mental state this summer, Malkin and the Penguins had big plans for this year with an eye on the playoffs. That resolve will certainly be tested now.
Without Malkin and Bjugstad in the lineup, the Penguins had Jared McCann in the second-line center role between Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Tanev, a unit that will need to find another level of production if the team is to succeed. It certainly seemed on Saturday like McCann was ready for the challenge, recording three points including the game-winning goal in a 7-2 demolition of the Blue Jackets. The 23-year old forward had previously only ever recorded three points in a single game once in his career, but will certainly get the opportunity for more of that success if he’s moved higher in the lineup.