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Penguins notebook: Malkin practices hard, still has pain

| Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, 6:54 p.m.
NHLI via Getty Images
Evgeni Malkin headshot

Center Evgeni Malkin still feels pain in his left leg.

Only a little bit, though.

“I'm a little bit weak, and (there is) a little bit (of) pain sometimes,” Malkin said Thursday after he participated fully in a Penguins practice at Consol Energy Center.

He worked drills with the first-team power play and took contact near the boards, but Malkin said he is at best a game-time decision to play Friday night at home against the New York Rangers.

“We'll see how it feels because it was (a) hard practice for my legs,” Malkin said.

He has missed eight consecutive games since crashing backward into the end-zone boards in a win Dec. 14 at Detroit. Despite missing 10 games overall because of injury, Malkin is third among Penguins with 41 points in 32 contests.

Rivalry on hold

Malkin said Russia's plan for him at the Olympics possibly has changed.

He said he believes there is a strong likelihood that winger Alex Ovechkin — Malkin's longtime rival — will be one of his wingers. Ovechkin leads the NHL with 30 goals. Malkin's 32 assists were tops at the time of his injury.

Malkin said he originally expected to have his best friend, Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs), on his left wing. They played together for their Russian hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League during the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

Ovechkin has totaled 62 goals in 86 games since Washington capitals coach Adam Oates switched him to right wing last season, but he may revert to his natural left wing for Russia.

Ovechkin and Malkin are not close, though their relationship has improved in recent years. They were the first Russians to go 1-2 at the NHL Entry Draft in 2004.

History lesson

On Friday, coach Dan Bylsma finally will be permitted by USA Hockey to address the squad he will coach at the Olympics. However, he was allowed to talk about two particular Olympians on Thursday.

Of course, defensemen Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik also play for Bylsma with the Penguins.

“The players that were injured, are injured … there was a certain amount of respecting the body of work that they have done in the past or they had done this season,” Bylsma said, referring to eight games missed by Orpik (concussion) and the past 17 by Martin (tibia).

Martin, off crutches and hopeful of gaining skating clearance from doctors next week, said he will be ready for the Olympic tournament, which for Team USA starts Feb. 13 against Slovakia.

Conner out

Winger Chris Conner is slated to have surgery on his broken left hand. He was injured Tuesday in a loss at New Jersey.

Conner, a regular on the third line since Nov. 27, scored four goals over that span.

Pyatt in

The Penguins claimed veteran winger Taylor Pyatt off waivers, a move that was not related to Conner's injury, Bylsma said.

Pyatt appeared in 50 games with the Rangers dating to last season. The Penguins are his sixth NHL club in 14 seasons.

“We were looking to add an NHL forward with size to our lineup and have him come in and do that,” Bylsma said of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Pyatt.

Pyatt, 32, has scored 136 goals in his 13-year NHL career.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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