Alex Galchenyuk meets new Penguins teammates, brushes up on his Russian
Alex Galchenyuk’s Russian is a little rusty.
Given his spot in the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry — right next to Russian superstar Evgeni Malkin — that’s about to change in a big way.
Galchenyuk said he never really met Malkin on a personal level before he was traded to the Penguins in the Phil Kessel deal in June. Their introduction came during a summer training session at a rink in South Florida.
On Tuesday morning, they skated together wearing Penguins colors as 15 players held an informal practice in Cranberry in preparation for the start of training camp Friday.
“The most exciting part is getting on the ice and skating with everybody, getting to know everybody, getting used to it, a little bit of chemistry,” Galchenyuk said. “Everybody’s looking forward to camp.”
Galchenyuk is an American who plays for Team USA in international competition, but his Eastern European roots run strong and deep. He was born in Milwaukee, and his father, Alexander, a native of Minsk, Belarus, played minor league hockey in the old IHL.
An eighth-year pro who played in the Ontario Hockey League, Galchenyuk admitted he’s fallen out of practice with his native tongue.
“I only talk to my parents and my sister (in Russian), and that’s it,” Galchenyuk said. “It’s slowly getting worse and worse. … I gotta catch up with Geno a bit.”
That process shouldn’t take long as Malkin isn’t exactly the quiet, contemplative type in the locker room.
“He’s a really outgoing and funny guy,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m learning a lot about him and his game.”
How Galchenyuk’s game meshes with Malkin’s is perhaps the primary concern as far as the Penguins are concerned.
They were anxious to move Kessel along, with his unique personality and carefree style of play beginning to grate on those around him, but now, with camp about to open, they’re faced with the reality that they have excised quite a bit of production from their lineup.
Kessel had 82 points in 82 games last season, running his four-year total with the Penguins to 303.
It wouldn’t be fair to ask Galchenyuk to replicate those numbers. It would be fair to ask him to develop some chemistry with Malkin, his new locker room neighbor.
“He’s definitely a player who is easy to play with,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m just going to out there and compete hard and use my skill.”
Galchenyuk has played with some pretty solid linemates in his career — Clayton Keller in Arizona, Jonathan Drouin and Alexander Radulov in Montreal, to name a few — but he’s never been teammates with players whose resumes rival those of Malkin or Sidney Crosby.
“Those are guys you look up to before you even get to the league, then obviously competing against them,” Galchenyuk said. “But now, being with them on the same team, it’s surreal. It’s definitely something really exciting. It was something I was looking forward to, to learn from guys like that.”
Notes: Defenseman Marcus Pettersson was one of the players skating Tuesday even though he’s an unsigned restricted free agent. The Penguins still must decide whether to sign Pettersson to a short-term deal, which only would require some standard roster wrangling to fit under the salary cap, or a more lucrative long-term deal that would require a cap-clearing trade. … With Olli Maatta gone to Chicago, Jack Johnson switched from No. 73 to No. 3.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .