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Practice update Malkin’s return draws near, DeSmith to COVID list

The Pens could be getting #71 back tomorrow in Anaheim

NHL: MAY 26 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Penguins at Islanders Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins hit the ice on Monday in California, after an off day on Sunday as they prepare to play the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night.

There were two big pieces of news, one good and one bad. The bad, Casey DeSmith is now on the COVID protocol list, as the Pens’ growing number there sits currently at four (Bryan Rust, Brock McGinn, Drew O’Connor, in reverse order of entry).

The good news is it looks like Evgeni Malkin will be making his season debut tomorrow night against the Ducks.

Interestingly, with having the top four centers on the team all healthy at the same time (Sidney Crosby, Malkin, Jeff Carter, Teddy Blueger), the team is using Carter on the wing, for one of the first times since he was acquired. This is in part due to the absence of two top-six wingers, since Rust and Jason Zucker are out. Other than Danton Heinen, who has had a nice season but gone cold missing two wide open nets in the last two games, the Pens just don’t have a lot of scoring line winger options right now.

Michelle Crechiolo from Pens Inside Scoop gave quick update that Zucker is skating on his own, but is not currently with the team, which is slightly encouraging but also a sign that Zucker may not be ready for this current road trip that last four more games.

Malkin also participated in top power play drills, on a group with Crosby, Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel and Evan Rodrigues. Without Malkin, the Pens only have 11 healthy forwards currently with the team currently, but have not elected to call anyone up from Wilkes-Barre in another indicator that No. 71 will be ready to play tomorrow night.

The Pens opted to bring reserve goalie Louis Domingue west with them, he remains on the practice squad today but figures to be called up on paper to the active roster to back up Tristan Jarry tomorrow night. Fortunately, unlike the previous three California trips, Pittsburgh does not play any games on back-to-back days on this segment of the schedule, so they may be able to ride Jarry until DeSmith is out of protocol in perhaps as few as five days. Though with the team on the road and now DeSmith isolated away from them and the ice, it will be interesting to see just when or how they get him and the other three players back rejoined with the team and ready to play.