There's no two ways to slice it, really bad news for the Pittsburgh Penguins 2015-16 season was announced today. Evgeni Malkin will be out the next 6-8 weeks with an "upper-body injury" suffered last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. From the team:
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin will miss the next 6-to-8 weeks with an upper-body injury, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
Malkin was injured in Friday night’s game against Columbus.
This season, Malkin is Pittsburgh’s second-leading goal (27) and point (58) scorer in 57 games played. His average of 1.02 points per contest is tied with teammate Sidney Crosby for the third-best mark in the NHL.
Earlier this year, the Penguins played 10-consecutive games without Malkin from Feb. 5-24, during which the team went 5-4-1. Historically, the Penguins have been able to find ways to compensate for Malkin’s absence, as their all-time record when he is injured is 70-45-9 (.601 pct.).
As mentioned above, this was only Malkin's 8th game back from a 10 game absence and he was starting to look more comfortable, including setting up 2 goals before leaving the game last night due to this hit.
Pretty innocent looking, routine type of play but his left arm buckles. Could be wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, who knows. The fact the Pens came out at gave a clear 6-8 week timetable seems to indicate some sort of clear break, possible surgery and a known recovery timetable, but that's pure speculation and an educated guess based on how the team releases information.
This is a tough one for the Pens to absorb. Just as losing Kris Letang last year to a concussion following the trading deadline, Pittsburgh will have to win at least 1 round in the playoffs before Malkin gets back. If they can even qualify for the playoffs for a 10th straight year.
NHL players are warriors and don't think like this, but it would probably be for the best in the big picture to just shut it down. The Pens 1st round draft pick in 2016 goes to Toronto as part of the Phil Kessel trade, but that's only if Pittsburgh makes the playoffs. A shrewd wrinkle of that trade to be sure by Jim Rutherford, who almost learned the lesson the hard way last year after trading his first rounder (unprotected) for David Perron only to see the Pens almost miss the playoffs.
Should the Pens not make the playoffs, they get their 1st rounder back this year, and Toronto gets the PIT 2nd this year (and the Pittsburgh 1st next year), with Pens picking up Toronto's 2nd next year.
If Pittsburgh makes the playoffs this year, they get their own 2nd back (courtesy the Daniel Winnik trade where TOR got it) but give up their 1st.
Either way, Pittsburgh has Anaheim's 2nd round this year, so they will have 2 picks inside the top 60 no matter what.
But without Evgeni Malkin, all the looks of being dangerous in the playoffs seems to go out the window. Unfortunate, but a tough one to take. We'll see if the team can rally and overcome adversity, but just as losing Letang last year was a fatal blow, it seems unlikely that this Pens team, sans Malkin, has the power to win a round if they even can qualify for the playoffs.