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Malkin smart not to talk about injury

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Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010
 

Evgeni Malkin is hardly healthy and super smart for not talking about it, and that's no joke.

Several teammates believe he might possess the highest IQ among them. There are stories of his first-try pickup of various card games — not blackjack or poker, but a more challenging one such as hearts.

Malkin would rather break down the finer points of bridge, and he could in several languages, than discuss a sore left knee that forced him from the Penguins lineup for a second time Saturday night at Columbus.

His habit is to not speak to the media after game-day morning practices, and he was fast to de-gear and head for medical treatment yesterday. The knee, upon which he has worn a thin brace for almost a month, is bothering him more than any outsider knows.

Don't expect him to use this injury as an excuse for scoring only one goal since netting a hat trick at Atlanta on Nov. 13.

Injuries just aren't worthwhile talking points with Malkin. The closest he has ever come to using one as an excuse was saying he didn't "feel good" during the 2008 Stanley Cup Final. Of course, he was playing with bruised ribs over the final weeks of that postseason — but a former teammate shared that information.

Malkin has yet to confirm, and this reporter believes he knows why.

Malkin is sharp enough to know that Europeans who talk honestly about the impact of injuries on their performance don't often get the benefit of the doubt from some North American media and fans.

Many things have been said and written about Malkin over the years. Not enough has been made of his ability to read the play off the ice. He has done so during these recent struggles (five goals in 18 games) by maintaining a sense of quick-witted humor.

Consider his Monday morning at Madison Square Garden. He and left wing Matt Cooke were among the first players off the ice after a morning practice, and Malkin overheard a conversation with Cooke about the NFL's apparent crackdown on tackling.

"You played football?" Malkin said to Cooke, who nodded.

It was suggested that practically ever male born in North America once tried his hand at football.

"You played football?" Malkin said to this reporter, who nodded.

"What," Malkin continued, "you played water boy?"

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