Malkin mixes it up at optional practice

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Evgeni Malkin didn't just go on the ice for the Penguins' optional practice Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.

He got involved in it.

Maybe more than most.

Malkin, who has missed the past six games because of an apparent shoulder injury, gave and absorbed contact during a drill along the boards, and suffered no visible ill effects from it.

It was, coach Dan Bylsma said, the second consecutive day Malkin engaged in hitting.

"Doing that [Wednesday] was a sign that [Tuesday] went well," Bylsma said. "He handled it fine out there [Wednesday]. We'll see how he reacts as we go forward."

Malkin has targeted the Penguins' game Friday night against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for his return, but cautioned that it is premature to pencil him into the lineup.

"I'm close to playing," he said. "I'll try to play Friday, but it's hard to say now. Just a couple of days more, and we'll see."

Malkin isn't the Penguins' only high-profile player trying to get back in uniform.

Defenseman Kris Letang, who sat out their 2-1 victory Tuesday against Washington after apparently aggravating a leg problem against Boston two days earlier, worked out on the ice with conditioning coach Mike Kadar before the optional practice but did not skate with his teammates.

Bylsma said "it's a possibility at this point" that Letang will practice today.

Letang, like Malkin, is officially listed as day-to-day.

Forwards Tanner Glass, Beau Bennett and Craig Adams, goalie Tomas Vokoun and defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and Mark Eaton were the other players who participated in the session.

Versatile rookie

Bennett has spent most of his time lately on the No. 2 line and hardly has looked out of place doing it, but Bylsma said he would not be reluctant to deploy him on a third or fourth forward unit.

Such a scenario presumably could come about if the Penguins were to acquire a top-six winger before the April 3 trade deadline.

"He's added some offense to our lineup, he's added some playmaking ability, he's added that skill," Bylsma said. "But he's also been very good on the other side of the puck, as well.

"He's been very good defensively, he's been very good managing the puck. I think he certainly could add skill to a third-line position, he could add skill to a fourth-line position, depending on how you go forward in the playoffs. He doesn't necessarily need to be a top-six [player]."

Bennett has two goals and six assists in his first 16 NHL games.

Boychuk waived again

Former Penguins forward Zach Boychuk was put on waivers by Nashville, the team that claimed him from the Penguins two weeks ago.

If Boychuk is claimed by a club other than Carolina -- where he started the season -- or the Penguins, and the latter seems pretty much out of the question, he would be with his fourth organization since the season started in January.

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