Before training camp even started, on Thursday 9/18, the Pittsburgh Penguins threw a bucket of cold water on their fans, announcing that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both had minor injuries, and that neither would begin training camp on the ice.
That report turned out to be halfway erroneous, as Crosby did in fact go out and skate for most of the drills in the first day of practice. He's sat out a few days since, but has skated the past couple of mornings, with his normal linemates of Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis and will participate in the team's final preseason game.
However, the Evgeni Malkin situation has been a lot more in the dark.
"We'll see over the next few days," Johnston said back on 9/18. "I don't expect any of them to be long. When the trainers and doctors inform us at this time of the year that we have to be cautious with a few people, we'll be cautious."
Is that turning into when Dan Bylsma famously said Crosby would be out "about a week" on January 7, 2011 after suffering a concussion. Crosby would go on to be bothered by it for the next 15 months, finally coming back for good in March of 2012.
That's probably alarmist to even compare the two, without even knowing what is the matter with Malkin. However it goes to show that we don't really know much of anything, because the team has provided vague updates at best. Injured players are unavailable to the media, and Malkin rarely talks much anyways. He's been spotted shaking Pavel Datsyuk ‘s hand when the Pens played the Red Wings, and he's been seen not noticeably hurt or limping while walking around, but other than that, not too much.
As of 9/23, last Tuesday, the same was repeated. No news but still not much fear that Malkin wouldn't be able to start the season. With Johnston himself using the word "fear".
But then yesterday, 9/29, Johnston admitted that Malkin hadn't taken to the ice in any shape or form. It's only 9 days until the Penguins season begins and their #2 key player hasn't been seen or heard from. That's not very encouraging.
One small break is the schedule. In 2013 we had 48 games condensed into a few months for the lockout, last season the league took a 3 week break in February for the Olympics and had to crush the 82 games around it. This year is much different. The Penguins only play 4 games from when the season starts (10/9) until 10/22. So even if Malkin has to be out for the first few weeks, he wouldn't miss too much game time.
Hopefully the caution will be the smart thing to get him back to 100% healthy, but the longer this goes on, the more in the dark we realize that we are. Malkin isn't 100% yet and the clock is ticking steadily towards opening night. Hopefully we get some good news soon.