The day has come for Evgeni Malkin, who will make his season debut for the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. The star center has been out all season rehabbing his knee after offseason surgery but now returns to a Pittsburgh lineup that won ten straight before falling to the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
With 48 games left in the regular season, Malkin will have a chance to climb a little further up the all-time points list. He currently sits 63rd with 1,104, just behind Patrick Kane’s 1,119. Both those names could jump over several impressive names, including former teammate Marian Hossa who is 57th with 1,134. Given Malkin recently said that he wants to play several more seasons, there’s no telling how high he’ll climb before eventually hanging up his skates.
- Unfortunately, Malkin’s return won’t be the only story of the day for the Penguins. Danton Heinen and Zach Aston-Reese have both tested positive for coronavirus and have entered the league’s COVID protocol. They are out for tonight’s game. Head coach Mike Sullivan explained that Heinen is experiencing symptoms, but Aston-Reese is not. The latter could test out of the protocol after five days, while Heinen will need his symptoms to resolve (and provide a negative test after a minimum of five days) before rejoining his teammates.
- The interesting part for the Penguins is how they’ll make the financials fit, as they actually don’t have the cap space to activate Malkin from long-term injured reserve without sending someone else down. With Heinen, Aston-Reese, and Casey DeSmith all on the COVID protocol, they’ll first have to get cap compliant before using emergency recalls to fill out a lineup.
- Moving Jason Zucker to LTIR could solve the issue for now but he too is close to a return. Zucker skated with the club today in a non-contact jersey, but Sullivan explained that his status hasn’t changed and is not ready to return just yet. Given Zucker hasn’t played since December 19, his stint on LTIR could be backdated to allow the Penguins to activate him whenever ready.