Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin returned and practiced fully Saturday for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury during Game Five against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 20. The Penguins announced he was a game-time decision for Game Two.
Malkin injured his leg while in a puck battle with Flyers forward Jori Lehterä. The Russian superstar finished the game, but did not play in the team’s clinching Game Six win against the Flyers and missed the Penguins opening game of the second round against the Washington Capitals.
“You always hope [the injury] is not bad,” Malkin said. “You hope it’s like small things but sometimes you need time for recovery. I try to do my best. I can’t play [Thursday], maybe tomorrow.”
Malkin hurt after Lehtera falls on his leg pic.twitter.com/ZRZMVD3fNX
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 20, 2018
Malkin skated on fourth line during rushes with Carter Rowney and Tom Kuhnhackl. Malkin also saw time working with the Penguins top power-play unit.
“I thought he looked pretty good,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. The bench boss added with a smirk that Malkin would “probably not” skate on the checking line if he suits up Sunday.
Good news of the day: Evgeni Malkin is on the ice for practice in a full-contact jersey.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 28, 2018
Despite being winded, Malkin was optimistic after the skate at Capital One Arena.
“I feel so much better,” Malkin said via ESPN. “We’ll see what I feel tonight, overnight. I can’t say right now, but it feels so much better.
“I haven’t skated in a week,” Malkin added. “It’s a little hard. I was breathing so hard.”
Malkin also found it difficult to watch two playoff games from the sidelines, but was proud of the team’s efforts without him.
“I believe this group. Great experience, great toughness,” Malkin added. “It’s tough to watch [Game One]. It’s 2-0, but they score one goal in quick second, it’s unbelievable they win this game.”
Malkin led the Penguins with 42 goals and 98 points during the regular season. He also added a team-leading seven game-winning goals and 38 power-play points, second to Phil Kessel.
“If we choose to put ‘Geno’ in the lineup tomorrow he’s going to play,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to try to put him in a position to play to his strengths and be successful.”
The only player who did not participate in practice Saturday afternoon was Carl Hagelin, who suffered an upper-body injury during Game Six against the Flyers.
Giroux hit on Hagelin… clean or dirty? pic.twitter.com/foMsBZV2DD
— The Hockey Hangout (@HockeyHangout) April 22, 2018
Hagelin remained home in Pittsburgh during the team’s trip for Games One and Two in Washington.
Headline photo: @Penguins
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