Ponikarovsky's job: Get Malkin on right track
Evgeni Malkin is close to getting his wish.
"A (lineup) of guys all speaking Russian," he said Wednesday after the Penguins practiced at Southpointe. "Tell him if we get one more Russian like (defenseman Sergei Gonchar), we can have five guys all speaking the same — just like back home."
The "him" to whom Malkin was jokingly referring is Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who acquired Russian-speaking left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky from Toronto for prospect Luca Caputi and defenseman Martin Skoula late Tuesday night.
Ponikarovsky, a childhood friend of Penguins winger Ruslan Fedotenko, will not join his new club until Friday because of time needed for the United States government to process his P-1 work visa. He will not play tonight against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
However, when Ponikarovsky does finally don a Skating Penguin sweater, he likely will find a fit with Fedotenko as Malkin's wingers because the Penguins prefer to keep together a top scoring line of center Sidney Crosby and wingers Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin.
With 66 points in 56 games Malkin is .20 points-per-game off his pace from last season, when he paced the NHL with 113 in 82 games. His regular wingers during the Stanley Cup playoffs — Fedotenko and forward Max Talbot — have combined for only 10 goals this season.
Ponikarovsky is one marker shy from doubling that total. He posted 19 goals and 41 points in 61 games with Toronto.
Malkin's old teammates know they need him to produce like the top-two point producer he was the past two seasons for the Penguins to defend their Stanley Cup championship.
His newest teammate figures getting Geno going is part of his new job.
"He has tremendous skill, speed and determination," Ponikarovsky said, "but everybody knows that. To play with this guy requires some commitment.
"I basically have to fit in and do my part, because when these two lines play their best, this team can do some great things."
One of the great things about Ponikarovsky's game is his commitment to defense. In fact, as a skilled forward that likes to back-check, his style is similar to former Penguins winger Marian Hossa, who helped improve the Penguins' offense and defense during his short stint on a line with Crosby in 2008.
"He's a guy who plays well away from the puck, is good down low on grinding shifts and getting to the net," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our pro scouts have watched him a lot, and they're calling him a motivated player right now with the way he's playing and the effort he gives out."
Ponikarovsky said he appreciated Bylsma's assessment of his skills, and he offered some words that might find favor with Malkin.
"It helps when you can speak Russian on the ice because it's our first language," he said. "It's not like I mind speaking English, but Russian players all come from the same schools and grow up playing as five-man units.
"I speak Geno's language. So does Ruslan. That can't hurt."
The Alexi Ponikarovsky file
Position: Left wing
Height, weight: 6-foot-4, 220 pounds
Statistics: 19 goals, 22 assists, 41 points and a plus-5 rating in 61 games with Toronto this season; 114 goals, 143 assists, 257 points and a plus-56 rating in 477 games with Toronto in his career.
Notable: Fourth-round choice (87th overall) by Toronto in 1998 NHL Entry Draft. ... In last months of three-year, $6.315 million contract he signed with Maple Leafs in May 2007. ... In Toronto, he earned the nickname "The Poni Express" from teammates. ... In 23 career playoff games, he has one goal and three assists. ... Last postseason appearance was in 2003-04.
Contract status: Can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
He said it: "Basically, there's always pressure on a player when he is traded, but it all comes down to working hard and being honest and paying that price. If I do that, everything will fall into place. I really am just focused on coming to Pittsburgh and having a good start and maybe a goal, that would be nice."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- Starkey: Tomlin lived in his fears
- Slain St. Clair officer walked into ‘worst nightmare’ for police
- Increasing player salaries pinch financial flexibility of Pirates
- Woodland Hills’ plan starts to come together
- No. 11 Purdue presents tall order for Pitt
- Film session: Long shots dotted Steelers’ passing game
- 2,200 union employees of ATI lose coverage
- Penguins’ reshuffled top line of Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz looks familiar
- Steelers notebook: Bryant confident in backup Jones if Big Ben can’t play
- 7 percent in Allegheny County able to carry concealed gun