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Malkin returns for Penguins against Jets

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired a former Art Ross Trophy winner via trade early Thursday morning. They got the reigning Art Ross recipient back for their game Thursday night.

After missing the past nine games because of a shoulder injury, Evgeni Malkin was activated from injured reserve and in the lineup against the Winnipeg Jets.

In a strong hint he was about to return, Malkin took part in the morning skate Thursday -- something he's done with regularity over the past week -- and was taking rushes with his normal linemates.

Coach Dan Bylsma used the term "game-time decision" when addressing Malkin's status. That differed from Tuesday, for example, when Bylsma said Malkin was "day-to-day" in advance of a game against the Montreal Canadiens that night.

"If I feel good maybe I'll play," Malkin told the team's website beforehand. "Game-time decision. If it's tonight, I'm ready. If not, we'll see for next game."

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury also was considered a game-time decision after not playing during the third period Tuesday, but he did not dress as the backup to Tomas Vokoun. Fleury, who reportedly has a neck injury, said he went through concussion tests Wednesday. He did not practice Wednesday but participated in an entire workout Thursday.

The Penguins recalled Jeff Zatkoff from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and served as Vokoun's backup. Fleury had said that barring any setbacks in the afternoon, he would be cleared to be in uniform for the game.

Bylsma was planning on starting Vokoun on Thursday regardless of Fleury's injury situation. Fleury, who is tied for the NHL lead in victories with 18, has allowed five goals over the past six starts of his personal seven-game winning streak.

Malkin was between James Neal and Brenden Morrow for line rushes, and he was on the Penguins' top power-play unit during practice. Neal has been Malkin's right wing the past two seasons; Morrow was acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars on Sunday and played with Neal in his Penguins debut Tuesday.

Earlier Thursday, the Penguins acquired Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames.

Malkin, who had 50 goals and 109 points in winning NHL MVP honors last season, had five goals and 19 assists in 21 games this season. He was out for the most recent nine games of Pittsburgh's NHL season-high 13-game winning streak, and he missed four games earlier this season because of a concussion.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero said Thursday the team would not expose any of its waiver-eligible players in the days leading up to roster League expansion April 3. They assigned forward Beau Bennett to Willkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday to make room for Malkin.

The Penguins (26-8), whose 52 points lead the League, picked up Iginla from the Flames in a trade announced after 1 a.m. ET Thursday.

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