Evgeni Malkin left an enduring impression on Winnipeg’s Paul Maurice
The Winnipeg Jets are off to a disjointed start to the 2019-20 season with a 1-2-0 record that has been punctuated by a dearth of defensemen.
Dustin Byfuglien did not report to training camp and remains absent in order attend to personal matters, including his own future in the sport. Josh Morrissey and Nathan Beaulieu have been hobbled by injury while Dmitry Kulikov has taken a leave of absence to attend to a family matter.
So the timing of Evgeni Malkin’s long-term injury is convenient from the Jets point of view. They will face the Penguins on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.
“What’s the truth?” Jets coach Paul Maurice asked rhetorically. “If you don’t have to play against Evgeni, you’d prefer not to. But if you’re a fan of the game, you want him in the lineup every night.”
Considering Maurice’s history with Malkin, his adulation of the player is understandable. Maurice served as Malkin’s coach with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of Russia’s KHL during the NHL’s 2012-13 lockout.
“You need to get actually on the ice with some of these guys to fully appreciate them,” Maurice said after his team practiced in Cranberry on Monday. “Watch what Evgeni Malkin can do with the puck at speed. I know you see it on TV and you see it in the stands, but it is completely different when you’re standing five feet away from it. It is … breathtaking.”
Even beyond his adroit skills, Malkin’s devotion to his craft left an impression on Maurice.
“When we were playing in Magnitogorsk, Russia, there’s nobody watching,” he said. “He’s a world-class player and he was by far the hardest-working guy on the ice. He just worked so hard in practice so that he could perform. I enjoyed the heck out of him.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .