The Penguins season already hangs in the balance

The Penguins could miss the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

Evgeni Malkin is expected to miss between 6-10 weeks according to The Athletic. Nick Bjugstad won't be available until November at the earliest.

With eight home games this month, the Penguins were supposed to start fast this year. The hockey gods clearly have different thoughts.

Already down Bryan Rust, Malkin and Bjugstad, the Penguins watched Patric Hornqvist walk down the tunnel in the first period yesterday after taking a puck off the leg.

It's not too early to start thinking about the playoff picture.

Sidney Crosby understands that even early season tilts are meaningful, "It's something we can rally around (the injuries). … It’s not easy, but collectively we’re going to have to find a way to do it if we’re going to stay in the playoff race here."

He's right. Two years ago, the Penguins didn't clinch a playoff berth until April 1st. Last year, the Penguins didn't slide in until the penultimate game of the season on April 4th.

Now, the Metropolitan Division is even stronger. The Flyers, Rangers and Devils are each supposed to be competitive while the Capitals and Hurricanes are bona fid Stanley Cup contenders.

If the Penguins are to make the playoffs for the 14th straight season and contend for the Cup themselves, they'll need to find a way to accumulate points in October without their second biggest star.

They can't count on playing catch-up again in March. The division is too good.

Adam Crowley

Adam Crowley

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