No more blocks, as Evgeni Malkin returns to Penguins practice
March 18, 2017 2:59 PM
Penguins Evgeni Malkin participated in Saturday’s practice at PPG Paints Arena.
By Jason Mackey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It won’t be long before Evgeni Malkin returns from a shoulder injury. When he does, don’t expect Malkin to block many more shots.
“No more,” Malkin said after participating in Saturday’s practice at PPG Paints Arena.
Malkin was injured while blocking a shot Monday in Calgary. He played two nights later, in Philadelphia, and even took the ice Friday for a couple minutes during the Penguins’ morning skate before adjourning to the dressing room.
Afterward, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin would sit out to rest an upper-body injury.
Malkin on Saturday said it would be “tough to play [Sunday against the Panthers],” but his return isn’t far off.
“I don’t think it’s a long-term thing,” Sullivan said. “We’ll see how he is in the morning. This is going to be a day-to-day thing. We’re hopeful that he’ll be back soon.”
Managing the pain — being able to actually shoot a puck — has been the hardest thing, Malkin said.
“When I played in Philly, I did not feel great,” Malkin said. “It was painful. I felt like I couldn’t shoot because there was pain every time in my shoulder.
“There’s still pain. Every day is better…. Just give me a little bit of time.”
Malkin’s injury started an interesting discussion on whether or not you want someone who carries a $9.5 million cap hit — highest on the team and fifth in the NHL — using his body to stop a piece of vulcanized rubber traveling in excess of 90 mph.
While the interested parties said not doing so would be ideal, it's a read-and-react sort of things that's tough to turn off.
“It’s instinct,” Malkin said. “You’re defending your net. I don’t block a lot. I was frustrated. We lost the puck in the neutral zone. They played in the offensive zone for a long time. I saw the forward ready to shoot. I tried to block a shot. It wasn’t perfect, but it was instinct.”
Ian Cole, who leads the Penguins with a single-season, franchise-record 172 blocked shots, had an interesting take.
“It isn’t the best way to kind of put your toe into the water as far as blocked shots go,” Cole said. “It takes some courage for him to go do that. The given play, it called for that. The way he stepped up and did that, the whole bench was on their feet. It was great. It’s unfortunate now that he’s out. I know the guys really saw that and commended his bravery for that.”
Malkin has 33 goals and 72 points, among the top five NHL-wide in both categories. His 1.16 points-per-game mark ranks second among qualifying players behind Sidney Crosby’s 1.20.
If Malkin doesn’t play Sunday, that will be his ninth game missed. Malkin would like to play all 82 — he said next season — but feeling good for the playoffs is the most important thing.
“It’s a long season,” Malkin said. “Now I’m trying to get ready for the playoffs. A couple extra days, we’ll start work a little bit more in the gym. I hope I can come back soon and be ready. Playoffs are more important.”
Jason Mackey: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JMackeyPG.
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