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Malkin game-time decision for Penguins against Oilers

Center has missed 11 games since sustaining lower-body injury

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Evgeni Malkin will be a game-time decision for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they play the Edmonton Oilers at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; SN, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).

The 33-year-old center was a full participant in a second consecutive practice Friday, when the Penguins activated him off injured reserve. Malkin has missed 11 games since sustaining a lower-body injury in the second period of a 7-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 5.

"He looks good," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's participating in a full capacity. I think his conditioning is improving each day that he's practicing with us. It looks really encouraging."

Pittsburgh is 7-4-0 in 11 games without Malkin, who practiced at second-line center with left wing Alex Galchenyuk and right wing Patric Hornqvist on Friday. He also worked on the top power-play unit with forwards Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, and defensemen Kris Letang and Justin Schultz.

The Penguins (8-5-0) could have a full lineup for the first time this season after playing without five regular forwards at various points through their first 13 games. Forwards Nick Bjugstad (lower body), Jared McCann (lower body), Bryan Rust (upper body) and Galchenyuk (lower body) have each returned from injury.

"I think the important thing is you want to get everyone involved," Crosby said. "You want everyone to feel good, get out there and get some rhythm. I think, especially in an afternoon game. We haven't played one of those yet. 

"So I think trying to get everyone right into it right away would be good. The fact that we have a full lineup would kind of help to be able to do that."

Malkin scored in a 3-1 season-opening loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 3 and was injured in the following game. He clipped skates with Letang before tumbling into the boards midway through the second period against the Blue Jackets.

Malkin, in his 14th NHL season, said he trained more vigorously than normal during the offseason. He had 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists), led the Penguins with 89 penalty minutes and was an NHL career-low minus-25 last season.

After practicing for the first time since sustaining the injury, Malkin said he was frustrated.

"I miss the ice so much," Malkin said on Monday. "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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