While this technically is the offseason, there isn't a lot of "off" time for Evgeni Malkin.
The Pittsburgh Penguins star center has been working every day rehabilitating a serious knee injury that curtailed his 2010-11 season and getting into the best shape possible for the upcoming season.
"I have known 'Geno' (Malkin) for five years now and I have never seen him this committed to getting healthier and wanting to do well," Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, who has been training Malkin for the past two weeks in Russia, told the Penguins' website. "It has been an eye-opener for me with his determination and work ethic. He is committed to it every day, and with no short cuts."
Malkin's season ended Feb. 4, when he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee during a game against the Buffalo Sabres. The injury came in his first game back after missing time due to a left knee injury and a sinus infection.
2011 NHL OFFSEASON NEWS
Offseason assessment: Central Division
Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
The Red Wings lost a few key pieces but still have Nicklas Lidstrom. The Predators and Blackhawks are intent on making the playoffs again, while the Blues and Blue Jackets attempt to get back. READ MORE ›
Malkin, who turned 25 on July 31, told the Pens' website that he believes all his summer work will pay off big this winter.
"It feels better every day," he said. "It's good, but not 100 percent yet, maybe 90. I'm skating it hard, but my knee feels good. Soon I will try (full speed). I push it more each day."
In addition to improving his knee, Malkin is working on bettering his overall conditioning and strength. He's in the gym early most mornings, running and swimming in a Moscow gym. Most days his workout partner is former teammate Sergei Gonchar.
"Kadar gives me drills and two practices a day," Malkin said. "Kadar has coached me a long time. He knows my body. It's hard work by myself and I don't know all the (fitness techniques). It's more fun with him around. 'Gonch' is a big help, too. He'll help (motivate) me when Kadar leaves."
Malkin has done a good job finding his own motivation. After back-to-back 100-point seasons in 2007-08 and 2008-09, he slipped to 77 points in 2009-10, and he had just 15 goals and 37 points in 43 games when his season ended. He wants to point that scoring -- and success -- needle in an upward direction.
"I want to play my best for the team," Malkin said. "I want to improve my skating, strengthen both my legs and become a faster skater. I want to be better for the whole year.
"I want to help my team with the Stanley Cup."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
You've got to focus on playing good hockey. When we do that we give ourselves a chance to win games. Win games and then maybe we''ll have a chance at the end. You can't worry about something like (the division title) when we're not playing our best hockey down the stretch. We'll figure things out together the way we always do and get back on the right page.
— Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews after loss to Flyers on Wednesday left them five points out of first place in Central Division