Injured Penguins star Evgeni Malkin returns to practice, tries to be nice
Evgeni Malkin is trying to be a nice guy.
He’s trying to focus on recovering from an upper-body injury and getting back into the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup for a game or two before the playoffs start. He took a step in that direction by joining his teammates for practice in a non-contact capacity Saturday afternoon in Cranberry.
But when the topic of conversation turned to the play that put him on the sidelines for the last six games – a nasty but unpenalized cross-check to the ribs from St. Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo while Malkin was standing in front of the net on the power play, nowhere near the puck – well, it’s sometimes hard to be nice.
“I’m not surprised because he’s always played like this,” Malkin said of Bortuzzo, a Penguins teammate for 113 games over parts of four seasons from 2011-15.
“He can fight. He can block shots. He’s not like a goal-scoring defenseman. He’s a tough defenseman. I’m surprised because I did not see him. He’s coming to my side. I think it should be a penalty for sure. But it’s a long time ago. I forget that. But I hope I see him in the Final.”
Malkin didn’t offer a precise timetable for a potential return to the lineup, but he said it would be ideal if he got into some game action before the playoffs start.
“More games is better, but I can’t rush right now,” Malkin said. “We understand it’s just four games left. I’m not playing all of them. I’m trying for one or two. I feel it’s like good for me if I play two or three games, but we’ll see how I feel after tomorrow. Every day is important.”
This isn’t the first time Malkin has experienced a late-season injury, of course.
In 2016, he missed the last 15 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury before returning in the second game of the playoffs. In 2017, he missed the last 13 games but was ready for the playoff opener.
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in both of those seasons, and Malkin didn’t dismiss the notion that a few weeks off at this time of year could leave him with fresh legs once the postseason begins.
“I feel, right now, a little bit rested,” Malkin said. “My body is a little bit stronger right now. I feel positive things. OK, I have injury, but what can I do? Work my body. Work my legs. My confidence, I try to watch video, watch every game my teammates play. I try to stay positive. I try to be a nice guy.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .