Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin will miss at least the first two months of the 2021-22 NHL season as he recovers from knee surgery, general manager Ron Hextall announced Thursday.
Malkin, 35, missed the final six weeks of the 2020-21 regular season after a collision with Boston Bruins defenseman Jared Tinordi in mid-March. He returned for the Penguins’ final four playoff games before electing to have surgery in June.
Missing Malkin for that long will set the Penguins back as they begin their season also without Sidney Crosby, one of the league’s best players. Crosby underwent wrist surgery in early September and will be sidelined for a total of about six weeks with recovery.
Crosby, 34, will return before Malkin can. According to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, Crosby has already been skating on his own ahead of Penguins training camp, which begun this week.
With Pittsburgh missing its two best centers, and arguably two of the best faceoff men in the league, the team will be depleted at the position as it looks to get a jump on the rest of the Metropolitan division. Jeff Carter, 36, who the squad acquired from the Kings last season, will likely leapfrog into the starting center spot from the third line with the top two guys out.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan acknowledged the fact that other rostered players will have to step up in the absence of the team’s two best forwards.
“I think so highly of the people we have in our dressing room. We have a lot of guys that bring a lot of leadership to this team - a number of them have that character and make-up to fill that void,” Sullivan said.
The Penguins begins their regular season with an away matchup at the home of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 12. Their first game against Washington will be in the nation’s capital on Nov. 14. With the current timetable given on both players, it is expected that Malkin will be absent for that game, but Crosby is likely to play.