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Malkin, Talbot progressing towards recovery

by Dan Rosen /
Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk aren't the only injured Russian snipers on the mend. The Pittsburgh Penguins are close to welcoming Evgeni Malkin back into their lineup.

Malkin, who Thursday night will miss his seventh straight game with a right shoulder strain, skated Thursday morning in a black jersey, indicating he has been cleared for contact, according to the Penguins' Web site.

"It was my second time practicing hard and it feels great," Malkin said. "I hope to come back soon. My shoulder and body are better. It was a good rest. I feel stronger now. I feel awesome. I won't play tonight (against New Jersey) but maybe next game."

The Penguins host Boston on Saturday.

"We are past the two-week mark in his progress," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He is progressing well."

Malkin, who has 14 points in 12 games, was joined in a black jersey by Maxime Talbot, who has been out all season following offseason shoulder surgery. Talbot said it was a big step for him to participate in a full-contact practice, but he's not thinking of playing Saturday.

"There is not a chance I will come back before another 10 days," Talbot said. "After that we will say, 'Maybe tonight,' but we will take the next 10 days to see how it feels and then after that I will concentrate on maybe playing. I still don't want to aim for a game."

The positive news on the injury front is a welcome sign for the Penguins, who seem to be getting bad news a lot these days.

It was announced today that defenseman Brooks Orpik will be out at least two weeks with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Kris Letang is out at least another 10 days with a shoulder contusion, and forward Tyler Kennedy is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Sergei Gonchar remains on injured reserve with a broken left wrist.

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