Malkin took the morning skate and was officially called “probable” for tonight, but based on line rushes and working with the #1 power play group, it would seem very probable.
Malkin is doing line rushes, which is a really great sign. Here's the #Pens workflow:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) February 11, 2019
Of those lines above, it’s believed Phil Kessel was actually lining up on the left wing and Nick Bjugstad will be on the right, but we shall see on that. Traditionally Kessel as an LW isn’t a long-term or very successful proposition so we shall see how that goes.
Justin Schultz and Zach Aston-Reese also both took part in the morning skate, but both were ruled out again tonight.
In another return though, Matt Murray will be in the net tonight against Philly. Murray was injured on February 5th against Carolina and has not played the last two games.
Teddy Blueger looks to be a healthy scratch tonight which is a bit disappointing since he’s played well, but at the same time Garrett Wilson deserves to stay in the lineup as well. Patric Hornqvist with no points in the last eight games is down to fourth line duties, but this certainly screams a line shuffle will be happening mid-way through the game.
There was a change to the power play as well:
Now Malkin is working on the first power play with Letang, Pettersson, Crosby and Hornqvist. The second power play is Riikola, Maatta, Kessel, Guentzel and Bjugstad. -MC— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) February 11, 2019
Taking Kessel and Jake Guentzel off the top unit and replacing with Malkin and Marcus Pettersson appears to be the response to giving up another short handed goal last game. On the surface I never like talent splits on the power play because they don’t work, and for a power play you don’t want balance for a second group - you want the first line to score and end the power play.
But Kessel isn’t shooting much and maybe this will refocus things and put more emphasis on Malkin and Sidney Crosby to take control while they’re out there and stop deferring to Kessel and Kris Letang so much. Any power play group with Letang feeding Malkin and Crosby for shots and Hornqvist in front of the net should be simple yet effective. And adding a second defenseman at the expense of skill is certainly a message that they can’t continue being so lax, even if it won’t be a permanent change.