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Evgeni Malkin wants to remain among NHL’s elite

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, September 16, 2018 7:30 p.m.

As he prepares to begin his 13th season in the NHL, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has some serious goals.

He doesn’t want to slow down coming off a 98-point season at age 32.

He sees new young stars coming into prominence, mentioning Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, New Jersey’s Taylor Hall and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. He doesn’t want to take a backseat to any of them. He wants to continue to be one of the world’s elite players for a long time.

“I don’t want to be a guy who wins three Cups and stops playing, just be a nice guy,” Malkin said as he met the media for the first time in training camp Sunday afternoon. “I want to try my best and try to dominate every game. I want to be like a leader should be, a top center in this league the next five, six years for sure.”

Malkin’s plan for world domination was slowed at the end of last season by a knee injury suffered in the fifth game of a first-round playoff series with Philadelphia.

He returned to the lineup for the final four games of a second-round loss to Washington and managed to post a goal and a couple of assists, but with four months to reflect, he admits he was nowhere close to 100 percent.

“I feel so much pain with my knee,” Malkin said. “It’s never fun to play with injury. It’s not a crazy injury, but I can’t push with my right leg.

“I can’t say right now I played bad. I tried my best. Of course, I didn’t play my game because I can’t skate so hard.”

Malkin, who said his knee is “1,000 percent” healed, faced injury challenges of a different sort already in the first couple of days of camp.

A high stick from teammate Matt Cullen off the opening faceoff of Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage broke two of his bottom teeth. Luckily, they weren’t real teeth to begin with.

“It’s all fake. It’s fixed yesterday. Easy, one hour,” Malkin said. “It’s hockey. He said sorry. We’re good friends, I think. I understand bad luck.”

When not in the dentist’s chair, Malkin has been skating on a line with winger Phil Kessel through the first three days of camp.

Because he had a lot of success playing with Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist last year, the question of whether Malkin should play with Kessel has often been broached in the offseason.

Malkin endorsed the idea of playing with Kessel — as long as the pair makes one key improvement.

“I like playing with him, for sure,” Malkin said. “I think we understand each other. We need to just change a little bit. Maybe in the ‘D’ zone, we need to play better. I think coach is a little bit upset when we play together. He understands we’re great offensive players, but sometimes we need to play better in the ‘D’ zone for sure.”

Notes: Ryan Haggerty, a 25-year-old winger on an AHL deal, scored a goal in intrasquad scrimmage action for the second straight game. … All three scrimmage teams went 1-1 in round-robin play. After a contentious tiebreaking procedure, Sidney Crosby’s team will meet Malkin’s team in a 20-minute playoff period Monday morning. The winner will face Kris Letang’s team in the championship game. The losers will practice. … Assistant coach Jacques Martin presided over practice while Mike Sullivan was away after the death of his father Saturday.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at
jbombulie@tribweb.com or
via Twitter @BombulieTrib.


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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby joins in defending Evgeni Malkin during the first day of camp Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
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