Just when things started going right, things went really wrong, really quick. Coming off of a winning streak, the Pittsburgh Penguins are now in a four-game losing streak. Then, they lost both Teddy Blueger and Jason Zucker with injuries, both long-term. Now, it looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin is now out with COVID-19.
Malkin’s Rough Season
Malkin hasn’t had a great season, not by a long shot. He missed a good chunk of the season so far due to knee surgery that he received on June 4. Although it was a successful surgery, the road to recovery was long and hard. In total, he missed 34 straight games. However, when he did come back, he wasted no time in making a bang.
Malkin’s season debut was Pittsburgh’s game against the Anaheim Ducks Jan. 11. In it, Malkin tallied two goals and one assist for a total of three points. Talk about coming back with a vengeance. In the 12 games that he did play, he put up a total of five goals and 13 points, including a point streak of nine games that technically still stands.
It still stands, unfortunately, as he has contracted COVID-19. This is incredibly unfortunate as the Penguins are now without their second-line center. The infamous one-two punch with the first and second lines is now going to be at a disadvantage without Malkin’s presence. However, there could be a silver lining as some players could be given a chance to prove themselves.
Who’s Stepping Up?
It was announced Monday that both Michael Chaput and Valtteri Puustinen have been recalled from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL. Pittsburgh signed Chaput as a free agent July 29, 2021. Since then, he hasn’t played a single game for the Penguins, but in the 25 games he’s played for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he’s put up a respectable 12 points.
Puustinen is a bit more interesting for the organization. Pittsburgh selected Puustinen 203rd overall in the 2019 NHL entry draft. This has been his first season in North America as he’s played 40 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, putting up 13 goals and 27 points in the process. He’s shown a ton of potential for Pittsburgh’s organization, and now it looks like his hard work could pay off as he has a chance to play in his first NHL game.
Either way, Malkin’s presence in the lineup is going to be sorely missed. His energy on the ice and booming shot will leave quite the hole in the lineup, but two guys, specifically Valtteri Puustinen, could be given the chance to play at the NHL level. What the team needs to focus on is honing their game to get out of the losing streak they’re in.
Go to our NHL page for more updates!