Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71), shown April 6, 2019, is recovering from off-season knee surgery. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Pittsburgh Penguins veteran center Evgeni Malkin will miss at least the first two months of the 2021-22 season as he continues to recover from off-season knee surgery, the team announced Thursday.
"Geno is not going to play for at least the first two months," Penguins general manager Ron Hextall told reporters. "That's where we're at right now."
Malkin was averaging a point per game last season before being injured in a collision with Boston Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi on March 16. Malkin was forced to miss the final six weeks of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs due to the knee injury.
The 35-year-old Malkin returned to the ice for four postseason games, then underwent the knee procedure after the Penguins were eliminated in June.
Malkin is entering his 16th NHL season and the final year of an eight-year, $76 million contract that he signed in 2013. Hextall said Thursday there hasn't been any progress made on an extension for Malkin, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Also Thursday, Hextall provided an update on star center Sidney Crosby, who remains sidelined while recovering from wrist surgery that he had earlier this month.
The 34-year-old Crosby is expected to return quicker than Malkin, with the initial timetable for Crosby's recovery set at six weeks. Crosby was skating on his own ahead of the Penguins' training camp, which began this week.
"Sid has been skating pretty much every day," Hextall said. "He's not handling the puck. He's one-handing the puck. But everything is going well. He's skating hard. He's right on the timeline that we gave, minimum of six weeks."
With Crosby and Malkin out, the Penguins likely will elevate 36-year-old Jeff Carter to their top line at the start of the season.
"We're up against it. We all know it," Hextall said. "We're going to have some guys that will have an opportunity to show us some things that they probably wouldn't otherwise. We need some guys to step up.
"Just seeing the chemistry of our group last year, there's a good feel this year. I think we all know we're up against it. I think our guys are ready for the challenge."
Since capturing back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and 2017, the Penguins have failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs. The New York Islanders defeated the Penguins in six games during the first round last season.