Minus Malkin, Penguins host Canucks

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks each will be missing a key player when they meet Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin will sit out at least that game because of an upper-body injury. Canucks winger Derek Dorsett has been sent back to Vancouver for evaluation after experiencing a recurrence of problems following cervical fusion surgery nearly a year ago.

Malkin was injured Saturday in a game against Chicago. He participated in a rigorous practice Monday but did not take the ice Tuesday. He has not been ruled out for Friday's game at Boston.

Dorsett's situation seems more tenuous. His comeback from what could have been a career-threatening situation a year ago that caused numbness in his arms seemed to be going well. He now has neck and back stiffness.

Before the Canucks beat the Flyers 5-2 without him Tuesday night in Philadelphia, Dorsett had nine points in 20 games, including a share of the team lead in goals with seven. He led the team with 39 hits and led the NHL with 74 penalty minutes.

Dorsett left Monday's practice early.

"I think the symptoms just slowly came around over the last week or so," Vancouver coach Travis Green said. "They just felt like he was better off if he went back and got tested.

"He's had a great start to the year. He's been a big part of our team. Hopefully, he's joining our group again soon."

The game at Philadelphia kicked off a season-high six-game trip for the Canucks (10-8-3) who are 7-3-0 on the road.

"We've got two tough games back-to-back," Vancouver defenseman Erik Gudbranson said, adding that his club's strong road record is no fluke.

"I think we keep the same process in every game. We've been good on the road, though," he said. "We've gone into some tough buildings and won some key games. We just need to continue doing that."

In Pittsburgh (11-8-3), they will face a team that is 6-1-1 at home.

The Penguins will be at PPG Paints Arena for six of their next eight games, which could give them a chance to work on several aspects of their game.

They have won two of their past three games but have been critical of their play.

"We've just got to find that consistency," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "Our game has been there in spurts, but not necessarily for full games. (It's a matter of) just limiting our mistakes and finding a way to put whole games together and give ourselves a chance to string some wins together."

Malkin's absence could be a hardship for the Penguins beyond the fact that he has seven goals and 21 points, second to linemate Phil Kessel in team scoring.

Without Malkin, the center lineup behind Crosby gets murky.

At practice Tuesday, winger Jake Guentzel shifted to Malkin's normal spot -- a situation that probably isn't a long-term solution but could work for a game or two.

"I don't mind him (at center)," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's a cerebral player. I think he distributes the puck well. He has a good, solid two-way game. He's played center. He played a lot of center in college -- so it's not something that he's unfamiliar with. He's a good player. If we do choose to use him there, I think he can make that adjustment fine."

That might not be needed, though, if Carter Rowney is able to come back from a broken hand to join Crosby, Riley Sheahan and Greg McKegg at center. Rowney got clearance to practice with contact Tuesday.

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