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Malkin practices with Penguins, eyes return against Oilers

Forward has missed past 10 with lower-body injury, remains out for Flyers game

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Evgeni Malkin hopes to return from a lower-body injury when the Pittsburgh Penguins play against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

The 33-year-old center practiced Monday for the first time after missing Pittsburgh's past 10 games. He took part in several drills, including rotating at center on a fifth line and working with the second power-play unit, while wearing a red no-contact jersey.

"I feel OK," Malkin said. "I try to do my best. I watched the games, how Pittsburgh played. They play amazing. I want to do my best and be back as soon as possible. Skate the last week, every day. We'll see what's going on the next couple days."

Malkin will miss an 11th game when the Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, ATTSN-PT, NBCSP, NHL.TV). They don't play the following three days before the Oilers visit.

Forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Brian Dumoulin each will be a game-time decision Tuesday after practicing Monday, coach Mike Sullivan said. Galchenyuk has missed nine games because of a lower-body injury; Dumoulin has been out the past four because of a lower-body injury.

Video: CBJ@PIT: Malkin leaves with injury in 2nd

Galchenyuk took line rushes at second-line left wing with Nick Bjugstad at center, where Malkin normally plays when healthy. Dumoulin returned to his defense pair with Kris Letang.

"It's good to be back around the guys," Dumoulin said. "It was good to get a full practice in with a lot of guys out there. It was fun being with the team again."

Malkin was injured in the Penguins' second game this season, a 7-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 5. Midway through the second period, he clipped skates with Letang before tripping and tumbling into the boards.

"I thought [Malkin] looked really strong on the ice," Sullivan said. "He's been skating with Ty [Hennes], our skills coach. His conditioning level looked pretty good. We'll see where he goes after today."

Pittsburgh has won six of 10 games and is averaging 3.1 goals without Malkin.

"He's obviously a big part of our success here," forward Patric Hornqvist said. "He's one of the best players in the world. We really miss him out there. It would be nice to see him come back pretty soon."

Malkin started his 14th NHL season with a goal in a 3-1 season-opening loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 3. After that game, he said the Penguins weren't hungry enough.

In nearly four weeks since, Malkin said he's seen Pittsburgh play with more urgency.

"I remember, we talk about how we have a good team," Malkin said. "We have a great four lines. Yeah, we don't play great in the first game, but in the second and third, and the last three games, the team played amazing. ... We work hard. We have skilled guys, a good power-play unit. 

"We need to work hard the whole game. Now you see, we have like five good lines. Young guys, they do a great job. They help so much. I hope when I'm back, keep winning. I need to help team, give more skill and more energy."

Malkin had 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 68 games last season, led the Penguins with 89 penalty minutes, and was an NHL career-low minus-25. When training camp opened Sept. 13, he said that led him to train more vigorously than usual during the offseason. 

After practice, Malkin said he was frustrated with being injured two games into the season.   

"I miss the ice so much," Malkin said. "I don't play in a long time, like all summer. Missed the last three weeks. It's a little bit hard mentally. I try to stay positive. I try to focus, do my best and work hard."

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