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Penguins' Malkin may face Rangers in Game 2

Forward fully practices for first time since upper-body injury March 11

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

NHL Tonight: Malkin Return

Malkin Nearing a Return for the Penguins

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  • 04:01 •

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin wants to play and could get his wish against the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Malkin practiced for a second consecutive day Friday when the Penguins prepared for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round series (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). After participating in optional practice Thursday following the 5-2 win against the Rangers in Game 1 on Wednesday, Malkin took part in his first full-team practice Friday since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 11.

He centered a line between left wing Conor Sheary and right wing Bryan Rust, who is recovering from a lower-body injury, and skated on the top power-play unit with Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang.

Video: PIT@CBJ: Malkin's injury forces him from the game

"It was a good practice today," Malkin said. "I'm very happy because coach (Mike Sullivan) let me play power play a little bit too, so I feel more confident right now. It's exciting to play with the team, with the guys. It's the playoffs and it's a short time to come back, but everything feels good.

"It's tough to say [if I will play Saturday] right now. I can't say too much right now, but it's a game-time decision. So, we'll see tomorrow. … I want to play, you know?"

Malkin, Rust (lower body), Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and Beau Bennett (undisclosed) remain day-to-day, Sullivan said. Fleury skated for a fifth time this week, including during morning skate Wednesday, but Sullivan did not provide an update on his status.

"We've got guys participating. They all had strong practices," Sullivan said. "It's very encouraging. … We would love to have these guys in our lineup. We trust that our medical staff advises us in the right way. … From our standpoint, I think where we're at right now, today was a very encouraging day for us."

Center Nick Bonino remained on a line with left wing Carl Hagelin and Kessel, Malkin's former linemates. Malkin said he would welcome playing with Rust and Sheary.

"They're two fast guys on the team," Malkin said. "We need to play a fast game. It's the same game. We have four good lines. It doesn't matter. I just play my game. They're good players."

Friday marked the end of the fifth week since his Malkin's injury. He was expected to be sidelined 6-8 weeks.

Malkin had 27 goals and 31 points in 57 games during the regular season, ranking fourth on the Penguins with 58 points.

At one point during practice Friday, Malkin and Crosby battled in front of the net, which resulted in Malkin playfully shoving Crosby following the whistle. Crosby grinned and put his arm around Malkin as they skated toward center ice.

"The hard thing with Geno is that he always looks good out there, so you never know," Crosby said. "But he looks really strong, and hopefully it's only a matter of time here."

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