MALKIN A DIFFERENCE
When I heard that Evgeni Malkin practiced in a real way on Sunday, I figured he’d take it slow and maybe return in a week (or this weekend). Instead, he jumped right into action, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins befuddle the declining Tampa Bay Lightning.
Malkin hit the ground running, creating nice chances among his five shots on goal. He found the net on one of his best tallies of 2013 and selflessly handed an empty-netter to James Neal for an assist.
I get a little nervous when anyone returns abruptly from a concussion or beat-around-the-bushes “head” injury, but it has worked out well (so far) for Geno and for Marian Hossa. Everyone’s different, so why wouldn’t that apply to brain injuries, right? I guess.
Nazem Kadri scored two points on Monday to give him a flat point-per-game (23 in 23). That prompted Randy Carlyle to break out the Bill Parcells book of party-pooping, accusing the Toronto media of wanting to “anoint” Kadri. Naturally, that prompted me to compare Kadri to Tony Romo, which is really good old-fashioned fun.
So should he rise to fantasy sainthood? Eh, I expect him to slow down a bit, but he’s got the pedigree (seventh pick of the 2009 NHL Draft) and decent enough opportunities to be above average. If you can drag a more proven commodity from a rabid Buds fan, all the power to you, but he looks promising at worst.
If nothing else, can we avoid the ridiculous scrutiny he faced regarding “fitness tests” with other players in the future, unless they show up like Keith Tkachuk/Shawn Kemp did after lockouts? Athleticism is increasingly important in the speedier NHL, but this stuff can get pretty ridiculous sometimes.
It looks like Monday’s focus on Cam Ward and Jose Theodore backups Dan Ellis and Jacob Markstrom was justifiable. Ward’s MCL sprain will sideline him for 6-8 weeks while Theo is expected to miss at least six weeks. That’s almost all of the remaining regular season, so either guy is appealing.
If you have to choose between the two, it’s an intriguing question. Ellis is more experienced and has a team that is likely to give him more goal support overall. Markstrom is the sexier talent. My brain says Ellis while my gut (which has better sense than my heart) says Markstrom.
For now, I’m going with my gut in this case. It’s a tough choice, though.
INJURY NOTES (full list) and QUICK HITS
Mathieu Garon suffered a lower-body injury, opening the door for Anders Lindback, who looked shaky. Is it me or are the Lightning actually the Southeast Division team most in need of (gasp) Roberto Luongo? Just throwing it out there … Patrick Kaleta was suspended for five games for that hit on Brad Richards. Honestly, almost every suspension has been either a little bit or way too light this season. Brendan Shanahan (now the soft Shanahand?) is either factoring in a shortened season or just caving to whiny league executives … Dustin Byfuglien might not be available tonight for personal reasons. Keep an eye on Rotoworld for updates on that.