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Fantasy Spin: Malkin set to return for Penguins

by Sergei J. Feldman
After a five-game absence, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin is slated to return Friday night when the Buffalo Sabres visit Consol Energy Center.

The tweaked knee is healthy once again, while the recent sinus infection that caused "Geno" to miss the All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C., last weekend has also cleared up.

He should also be returning to your fantasy lineups, as a talent like Malkin is hard to leave on the bench.

Despite straying from his typical spot among the upper echelon in points and assists this season, Malkin has been a helpful contributor across the board for fantasy owners.

His 15 goals, 22 assists and 18 penalty minutes are somewhat offset by his impressive shot total (179), which is good for eighth in the League. He also has been strong on the power play with 14 points despite missing 10 games this season.

While the team is hitting on all cylinders -- the Penguins have won seven of their last eight games despite missing Malkin and captain Sidney Crosby along the way -- Malkin's return still figures to be an injection of energy.

His return means instant depth at a position where the Penguins currently lack it. He and Jordan Staal are likely to occupy the top two spots in the middle for Pittsburgh until Crosby returns from a concussion and Mark Letestu from a lower-body injury. When the team is at full health, Malkin will likely slide to the wing, and whichever center he plays with will see a boost in value.

At Thursday's morning skate, Malkin practiced alongside Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Those guys have been consistent producers (often playing with Crosby) and they could help Malkin get back on track.

Malkin has been a bit of a disappointment for fantasy owners, but he is too great of a talent to leave out of the lineup. He has also flourished in the past with Crosby out of the lineup. Expect him to get big minutes, which could lead to a lot of shots and maybe a chance for him to start producing at the levels we've come to expect.

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