Center Evgeni Malkin used the word "normal" Thursday to describe being in Penguins training camp after the team's first on-ice practices.
That's because much of his past year was anything but normal.
A year ago, Malkin spent the first months of the season playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in his Russian hometown, Magnitogorsk, because of an NHL lockout that dragged into January.
He piled up 23 goals, 65 points in 37 games.
After an abbreviated training camp, he had nine goals, 33 points in 31 games with the Penguins. After a sweep by Boston in the Eastern Conference final, Malkin returned to Russia for the summer.
That's standard for him, but usually he works out there with close friend and former teammate Sergei Gonchar.
"He stayed in the U.S. the whole summer," Malkin said. "Maybe next summer."
Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, who, in recent years, has spent time training Malkin in Russia, also did not go this time.
"It was a little bit different, but I had a schedule for myself," Malkin said. "I just did what I did before."
While heading for an NHL season that will start on time, Malkin will face another out-of-the-ordinary experience when he returns to Russia to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
"It's unbelievable for me because we will be playing at home," Malkin said. "It might be the one time in my life."
He wants nothing to do with the controversy surrounding the Olympics and anti-gay laws enacted in Russia.
"I'm trying not to read about that," he said. "I just want to play hockey. Some players like it, some players don't."
Malkin dismissed any notion that he was influenced at all by winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who staged a retirement from the NHL, left the New Jersey Devils, then jumped to the KHL.
"I know [the NHL] is the best league in the world," he said. "I want to play here. I'm not thinking about Russia.
"I like playing in Russia. It's my hometown. My parents are there. But I still missed the NHL because I know how good it is here. I missed this building," he said of Consol Enegy Center. "I'm glad to be back."
Malkin skated in practice with his regular right winger, James Neal, and with second-year pro Beau Bennett on the left side.
Bennett is expected to get a full audition to play there regularly.
First scrimmage result
The line of Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz each scored a goal to lead Group B to a 5-0 victory over Group A in the first scrimmage of training camp Thursday.
Craig Adams and Tanner Glass also scored for Group B, which got four goals against Marc-Andre Fleury and one against Tristan Jarry.
Tomas Vokoun and Matt Murray combined for the shutout.
No Crosby, Letang Saturday?
Barring a change in plans or the makeup of the practice groups, Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang will not participate in the open scrimmage at 10 a.m. Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
They are, at least for now, working with Group B; Groups A and C are scheduled to take part in that scrimmage. .
The groups for day one were:
A -- Paul Martin, Chuck Kobasew, Brandon Sutter, Dustin Jeffrey, Matt D'Agostini, Chris Conner, Brendan Mikkelson, Fleury, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Jussi Jokinen, Harry Zolnierczyk, Nick Drazenovic, Brooks Orpik, Brian Gibbons, Derrick Pouliot, Harrison Ruopp, Reid McNeill, Matia Marcantuoni, Jarry.
B -- Rob Scuderi, Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, Dupuis, Glass Kunitz, Adams, Steve MacIntyre, Tom Kostopoulos, Joe Vitale, Nick D'Agostino, Paul Thompson, Letang, Jayson Megna, Murray, Clark Seymour, Crosby, Vokoun.
C -- Matt Niskanen, Olli Maatta, Deryk Engelland, Neal, Bennett, Andrew Ebbett, Eric Hartzell, Jeff Zatkoff, Zach Sill, Robert Bortuzzo, Bobby Farnham, Adam Payerl, Simon Despres, Dominik Uher, Tom Kuhnhackl, Philip Samuelsson, Malkin, Jean-Sebastien Dea.
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: email@example.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.