Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin understands, accepts punishment, still upset at Michael Raffl
Malkin discusses suspension
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin knows he was wrong when he swung his stick near the head of Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl. But he’s eager to put the one-game suspension behind him, accept the lost wages and concentrate on what really matters: rallying himself and his team over the final 25 games of the regular season.
Truth be told, however, he still doesn’t like what Raffl did to trigger Malkin’s anger Monday in Philadelphia.
“One game is probably OK,” he said Thursday after joining his teammates for an optional practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. “I played (dangerously). My stick (went) high.
“It’s fine. I try to forget that. It’s a little bit of bad luck for me. Miss one game. Miss money,” he said, smiling. “But the team won (Wednesday). That’s good.”
Yet, he also said his action was in retaliation for what Raffl did: cross-checking him and grabbing him around the mid-section before clubbing him in the back of his neck.
Malkin reacted by swinging his stick and barely missing Raffl. He was given a game misconduct and five-minute major while Raffl skated away, unpunished.
“This is my point (when) I talked to the league,” Malkin said. “I missed five games because I have problem with my neck. He hits me behind my neck. Of course, I’m a little bit upset.
“I understand it’s a tough game. He played dirty, and referee didn’t give him nothing. I don’t understand that. My point (to the NHL) was that I didn’t touch his face. I touched his shoulder. I think he dove.”
Malkin also acknowledged that his ejection for a hit on the Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie on Nov. 7 might have played a part in the NHL’s decision to suspend him for Wednesday’s 3-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers.
“I don’t have a great history. Before, I hit Oshie,” Malkin said. “I talked with the NHL. I think they (put) everything together and gave me one game.
“But it doesn’t matter. Forget that. Whatever.”
Human nature dictates, however, that walking — or skating — away is difficult in those situations.
“I think sometimes you come back to the bench and you’re like, ‘Wow, I want to cross-check that guy in the face,’ ” Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese said, speaking in general terms. “But you can’t do that.
“(Malkin) got his penalty. I think he knows he can’t do that moving forward. It is (difficult), for sure. But at the end of the day, you just have to put your personal vengeance aside and focus on the team and what’s important to the team.”
Coach Mike Sullivan is more than ready to forget the whole thing.
“It’s an emotional game, and stuff happens out there,” he said. “I just think the most important thing is we learn from the experiences, and we move on. And that’s where we’re at right now. We put it behind us. We’re looking forward.”
Malkin feels the same way as he’s eager for games Saturday and Sunday against the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers at PPG Paints Arena.
He’s scored just two goals in the past 12 games and 14 for the season, putting him in jeopardy of finishing with his smallest total since scoring nine in 31 games during an injury-shortened 2012-13 season.
“Glad I’m back,” said Malkin, who has at least one assist in five consecutive games. “(For) the last 25 games, we’ll try to find our game. Play fast, play smart, play better in D zone, make playoffs.
“If we make playoffs, new life, new challenge.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .