In their first game without their All-Star duo, it looked like a pretty valid one.
The Penguins try to bounce back from being shut out for the second time this month Saturday night against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, who wrap up a rough five-game stretch against teams above them in the Eastern Conference.
Just when it looked like Pittsburgh (29-15-4) was getting the hang of playing without Crosby, it found out after Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Detroit that Malkin was dealing with a left knee injury.
That kept him and Crosby, who has a concussion, out of the lineup Thursday against New Jersey. It was the first time in 437 games since Malkin entered the league that the Penguins were without both former Art Ross Trophy winners.
“You can’t use that (as an excuse),” Dupuis told the league’s official website. “It’s the NHL, and injuries are part of the game. I think we’re a good enough team in here to have a better performance than we had tonight. I don’t think we were ready.”
Coach Dan Bylsma said Friday that Crosby is “progressing, but not symptom free,” while Malkin is dealing with a sinus infection in addition to a sore knee.
That makes it extremely likely that both will be out again Saturday - bad news considering the duo accounted for six of Pittsburgh’s seven goals in two wins against Carolina (23-18-6) earlier this season.
The Hurricanes have been about as healthy as a team can hope to be, with Jussi Jokinen’s(notes) six-game absence earlier this month the only time one of their top six scorers has been out of the lineup.
Jokinen, who had two goals and two assists in a 5-4 shootout loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, has been on quite a tear since returning Jan. 11. He has six goals and three assists in his last six games and scored the winner in Thursday’s 4-1 victory against the New York Rangers.
Coach Paul Maurice was rather pleased with the way his team responded after being outscored 10-2 in a home-and-home series with Boston earlier in the week.
“What I thought you saw tonight was a real good look at the leadership in our room,” Maurice said.
Carolina pulled within two points of Atlanta for the eighth playoff spot in the East, and even with Pittsburgh missing Crosby and Malkin, Saturday should provide a solid test. The Hurricanes are 6-11-3 against the eight teams ahead of them in the standings.
Staal has three goals and three assists in his last four games, but he only has two goals and four assists in 16 contests against the team his brother captains.