The Pittsburgh Penguins have some serious question marks as they march towards Game 1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Saturday's practice only amplified the concerns that fans have already had ahead of facing a tough and gritty New York Islanders squad.
Although it is important to remember that gamesmanship is always something that can come into play during the playoffs, there were two big red flags at practice on Saturday for the Penguins. The first was the absence of goaltender Casey DeSmith who left practice early on Friday, and the other was the lack of any serious participation on the part of injured forward Evgeni Malkin. To be clear Malkin was out on the ice with his teammates, but once again he did not participate in the team's line rushes. Instead here is how the Penguins group of forwards broke down during those line rushes, just one day ahead of facing off against the aforementioned Islanders in Game 1.
Guentzel - Crosby - Rust
McCann - Carter - Kapanen
Zucker - Gaudreau - Rodrigues
Aston-Reese — Blueger - Tanev
Dumoulin - Letang
Matheson - Ceci
Pettersson - Marino
Perhaps even more notable however was the fact that Malkin also failed to get in any practice time with the team's power play units. Malkin did get some repetitions with the power play units earlier during the week, but the decision not to do so today could be a sign that the team does not expect that he will be ready to play in Game 1. Although neither the Penguins nor head coach Mike Sullivan offered any comment on Malkin's status for that game, it seems very likely that he will be a game time decision come Monday.
Malkin just recently returned from a knee injury, one that kept him out of the line up for several weeks, but that return was short lived after he appeared to re-injure himself during a regular season game against the Buffalo Sabres. No doubt the Penguins are going to try and protect him as much as possible in the hopes that he can make yet another return during the playoffs, however given his recent run of injuries you do have to wonder what kind of shape he will be in if he does indeed end up playing.