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Coach Sullivan issues statement on Kessel and Brassard

Only two regular season games left, smart move to rest up?

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The Pittsburgh Penguins returned to the ice at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh today for a team practice following a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday evening.

Noticeably absent from today’s practice however were key players Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard:

Kessel, of course, did manage to play on Sunday but there was some concern that he wouldn’t he healthy enough to go. As is always the case with Kessel he suited up and gave it his 100% effort. That’s just the type of player he is. 

As for Brassard, he’s been out of the lineup since suffering a groin injury last Tuesday in a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The veteran centre acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline hasn’t yet skated since suffering the injury. He has three goals and eight points in 14 games since being acquired and has solidified the Penguins’ third line, so to say that the Penguins have missed him would be a drastic understatement.

So… what’s the deal? Can we expect both Kessel and Brassard back in time for Thursday’s game against the rival Columbus Blue Jackets? Pens head coach Mike Sullivan had this to say after practice:

So Phil is good to go… but Brass? Doesn’t look like Sullivan is tipping his hand anytime soon. For what it’s worth, the Penguins only have two regular season games remaining and of course they’ve already clinched a spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Does it even make sense to play these guys if they’re not 100%? Why not rest up and ensure that they’re at the top of their game when the puck drops on the post season?

Malkin tosses Oshie’s stick into the bench, has to be wrestled off the ice by officials

If you missed last night’s matchup between the Division leading Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, you missed another absolute beauty in this decade plus long rivalry.

While it may have been Alex Ovechkin’s 1,000th NHL game, it was another Russian superstar, the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, who made waves last night.

Malkin was eventually ejected from the game, which the Capitals would win 3-1, but before that he got into a heated exchange with Caps forward T.J. Oshie. Why? Well… watch for yourself:

Watch closely… do you see it? Yes, that’s Malkin slipping Oshie’s stick onto the Caps’ bench. Obviously Oshie took exception to this and decides to let Malkin know how he feels. The stick-less Oshie puts Malkin in a headlock and begins throwing punches at the big Russian. Malkin eventually gets free and manages a few shots of his own… but not enough for us to officially call this scuffle a fight. That’s the way the on-ice officials saw things as well, as both individuals earned themselves roughing minors. Because there was only a minute or so remaining in the game and because he had to be wrestled off the ice by officials however, Malkin never served a second of that penalty.

During the exchange with Oshie, which occurred directly in front of the Capitals’ bench, Malkin’s good friend Evgeny Kuznetsov apparently chimed in with some comments that absolutely set Malkin OFF. 

Here’s the entire exchange, starting with Malkin’s stick flip:

Towards the second half of the clip you’ll see that Malkin is doing everything possible to get to Kuznetsov. Whatever was said, it should fired up, Geno Malkin. 

Wait… so he was upset that Kuznetsov spoke to him in Russian? Or he’s upset that Kuznetsov spoke to him at all? We’re not clear on what exactly happened here…

Oh… okay, that explains it. I think. Still… this seems like an awfully silly reason to earn yourself a game ejection. 

“We need to understand that we might see each other in the playoffs. We send message. We're ready to play in the playoffs, maybe in the second round.”

Ah! That explains it! 

Any way you look at things though, Malkin comes out looking foolish. He ends up taking himself out of a game when he could have been a very valuable player in the final 60 seconds for a surging Penguins squad. As it is, he had to be wrestled off the ice by officials. Not exactly Geno’s best night in the NHL. Thankfully for him, he’s earned the right to go off every now and again.