Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin sets lofty goal: Be dominant player for 5 or 6 more years
As he prepares to begin his 13th season in the NHL, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has some goals.
He doesn’t want to slow down coming off a 98-point season at age 32.
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 be a good player, next five years, next six years. 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 by a knee injury suffered in the fifth game of a first-round playoff series with Philadelphia last season.
He returned to the lineup for the final four games of a second-round loss to the Washington Capitals and managed to post a goal and a couple of assists, but with four months to reflect, he now 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’s faced some injury challenges of a different kind 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 bein 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.”
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 skating on a line with Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist last year, the question of whether Malkin should play with or without Kessel has often been broached in the offseason.
Malkin endorsed the idea of playing with Kessel, as long as the pair make 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. We need to stop in zone, finish checks, play a little bit harder in the D zone.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.