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Penguins' Malkin skates for first time at camp

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin returned to the ice Saturday for the first time since Pittsburgh announced his undisclosed injury.

Malkin, who has been sidelined throughout training camp, skated on his own prior to practice but did not join his teammates when they took the ice at Consol Energy Center. He worked out Thursday and Friday and "the steps are in motion" for him to participate in his first practice since the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Penguins coach Mike Johnston said.

Johnston said he hopes Malkin can work with a skills coach Sunday in addition to another skate.

"We're just taking it day by day and seeing how he progresses," Johnston said. "I know everybody, when we talked to everybody at the beginning of training camp, we weren't sure how long he may be out. And it did progress a little bit longer than we thought, but for sure it's exciting to get him working out the other day when we were heading up to the team building.


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"Everything seemed to go well … So, that's very positive."

Johnston said he is unsure of Malkin's status for Pittsburgh's season-opener against the Anaheim Ducks at home Thursday.

"As everybody will want to know, well when is he going to play? But once the steps are in motion, at least you know we're moving in that direction," Johnston said. "We'll see how he progresses and when he can get with the team."

Pittsburgh announced that Malkin, along with forward Sidney Crosby, would be held out of the start of training camp on Sept. 18. Crosby skated in the Penguins' first practice the following day and made his preseason debut against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

Malkin's injury has kept him off of the ice longer than planned. When he returns, he will have new linemates; James Neal and Jussi Jokinen are playing for the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers, respectively.

Malkin will also be met with a new system under Johnston, one that has been described as intense throughout the Penguins dressing room. Crosby said he doesn't think Malkin will have any trouble adjusting to the changes once he joins the team.

"At the start of every year, I think timing is a big part of it," Crosby said. "So he's a pretty smart player. I think he'll be OK and he'll adapt pretty quick. So, I think that's something everybody has to deal with at the start of the year, whether you're joining right with everyone else, or you're starting a little bit later.

"That's a challenge for everyone."

Malkin scored 23 goals and had 72 points last season despite missing 22 games due to various injuries. He finished the Stanley Cup Playoffs with six goals and 14 points in 13 games, including a hat trick in Game 6 of Pittsburgh's Eastern Conference First Round Series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, after being criticized for a lack of production throughout the majority of the first series.

Crosby said he thinks Malkin's potential absence at the start of the season provides opportunities for other players.

"I think at different points there, you have to go through that," Crosby said. "So, I think just making sure that we're kind of responsible for what we need to do out there and try to get better with each game.

"Hopefully, we get him back soon."

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