Penguins aim to keep momentum without Malkin vs. Jets

Field Level Media

The Winnipeg Jets will be seeking their second road win, while the Pittsburgh Penguins aim for their second home victory when the teams meet Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.

The Jets are 1-2 on a four-game, season-opening road trip that concludes in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is 1-1 on a season-opening four-game homestand.

The Penguins were thrilled they rebounded from a 3-1 opening loss to Buffalo with a 7-2 win on Saturday over Columbus.

The triumph came at a steep price, however. Second-line center and core player Evgeni Malkin left in the second period, and third-line center Nick Bjugstad exited in the third period.

On Monday, coach Mike Sullivan announced both centers would be out "longer term" with lower-body injuries. Sullivan said Malkin probably will be sidelined longer than Bjugstad.

That's a blow. Malkin is coming off a down season, by his standards, but there were indications he was poised for a rebound, including a rigorous offseason of training. He scored Pittsburgh's only goal in its season opener.

"Whenever players go down, it always provides an opportunity for someone else to step up. That's just the nature of our business," Sullivan said.

It's likely Jared McCann will move into Malkin's spot, at least initially. He moved there from third-like center Saturday and scored two goals.

"I grew up playing center. If they call me to do that again, I'll be ready for it," McCann said.

The Penguins have been carrying the minimum 12 forwards. With the two injuries, the team is likely to recall a player or two from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Sullivan also could dress seven defensemen.

Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey, meanwhile, is day to day. He was scratched Sunday for a 4-1 loss against the New York Islanders after sustaining an upper-body injury during pregame warmups. He was replaced in the lineup by Carl Dahlstrom.

Morrissey's role among the defensemen has increased this season after Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot were lost to free agency and Dustin Byfluglien stepped back to consider his future.

In addition, veteran Nathan Beaulieu is hurt.

Morrissey averaged more than 25 minutes of ice time through the Jets' first two games.

"He's our best guy back there (on defense)," teammate Blake Wheeler said. "Logs a ton of minutes. Plays a huge role for us."

The Jets have given up 14 goals through their three games, but coach Paul Maurice pointed out that in addition to missing Morrissey for one of those games and the other absences, they have 18-year-old Ville Heinola playing, Dmitry Kulikov playing on his off side and a couple other young defensemen who are inexperienced.

"It's tough for these guys right now, but I think they've handled it really well," Maurice said.

As for the forwards, Maurice made a significant change during the loss to the Islanders, switching Patrik Laine and Nik Ehlers. Laine, after joining Mark Scheifele and Wheeler, scored the Jets' only goal of the game.

"So what (the switch) does is it lets Kyle (Connor) play with some more speed with Nik Ehlers and they can come out in a different time in the rotation," Maurice said.

--Field Level Media

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