Already down 0-1 in their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the task for the Washington Capitals could get even tougher as Evgeni Malkin nears his return.
Whether he will be back for Sunday's Game 2, however, still remains unclear.
Malkin did not play in Game 1 Thursday or in Game 6 in Pittsburgh's first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers because of a lower-body injury. On Saturday, he was a full participant in Saturday's practice centering the fourth line.
Afterward, head coach Mike Sullivan called Malkin a game-time decision for Game 2.
The fact that Malkin was full-go in practice, including practicing on the team's top powew play unit, suggests he will be ready for Sunday's game. But the Penguins are not interested in having Malkin back in a limited capacity.
When asked if he would consider playing Malkin on the fourth line for Game 2 as he had in practice, Sullivan said, "Probably not."
Sullivan added, "If we choose to put [Malkin] in the lineup [Sunday], he's going to play and we're going to try to put him in a position to play to his strengths and to be successful."
It certainly sounds like if Pittsburgh believes Malkin can only play fourth line minutes, they are not going to play him at all.
Now the team must wait to see how Malkin feels after his first full practice back.
"I feel so much better," Malkin said to reporters after practice. "We'll see how I feel overnight. If I play, I'm ready to play. If I play, I need to go 100-percent."