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Evgeni Malkin returns to practice with Penguins

Forward remains sidelined because of lower-body injury; Carl Hagelin diagnosed with concussion

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin returned to practice wearing a no-contact jersey Monday but will not play against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, ROOT, SNW, NHL.TV).

Malkin will miss his fifth straight game because of a lower-body injury, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

"We were really encouraged with his practice," Sullivan said. "He felt strong. His next progression is to get the contact part of the practice, so that will be the next step. But certainly, the fact that he joined the team today in a non-contact capacity is real encouraging."

The practice was Malkin's first since he was injured against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 24. He skated with skills coach Ty Hennes throughout the past week.

"It's hard skating by myself, for sure," Malkin said, "but it's good to be with my teammates in the same practice. I played a couple drills and played the power play a little bit. It's so fun to play the game and I'm glad to be here with the team and I want to be back soon, but I have to be careful. It's not ready, but it's day by day."

Video: PIT@CAR: Malkin beats Ward with wraparound tally

Malkin rotated with center Carter Rowney between Scott Wilson and Patric Hornqvist. After watching the first few reps from center ice, he joined Pittsburgh's first power-play unit.

The Penguins are 3-1-0 in their four games without Malkin.

"I think they've done a great job," Malkin said. "I'm glad. 'Great job guys.' … But I want to play, for sure."

Before the injury, Malkin, who has not gone consecutive games without a point since failing to score in two straight on Nov. 16 and 18, had flourished with 10 goals and 21 points in his past 16 games. He is second on the Penguins, behind Sidney Crosby, with 22 goals and 54 points in 47 games.

His 1.15 points per game this season is his highest average since 2013-14, when he averaged 1.20 points in 60 games.

Malkin's injury forced him to miss the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game. In the lead-up to the event, he wasn't included on the list of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian.

Malkin joked he didn't want to be reminded of his exclusion. He also paid respect to those who were included.

"I'm trying to forget," Malkin said. "I'm proud of what the team said and what Mario [Lemieux] said. I'm proud of my family and fans, and my friends. They support me and I did my best. … All 100 players are legends. They deserve to be on this list.

"Maybe I'll win a couple more trophies and a couple more Stanley Cups, and maybe next year in the NHL's 101st year, maybe … I'll be No. 101."

For now, Malkin is more focused on returning from his injury.

Video: WSH@PIT: Malkin blasts one-timer from one knee

"I'm trying to do my best," Malkin said. "I skated extra, a little bit of work after practice. It's not easy. A game is different. It doesn't matter how you practice. A game is whole [lot] different. I just do my best. … Everything is good. I'm glad with what I did."

Forward Carl Hagelin was diagnosed with a concussion and skated on his own before practice. He left in the first period of the Penguins' 4-1 win against the Blues on Saturday.

With Malkin, Hagelin and forward Conor Sheary (upper body) injured, Sullivan juggled Pittsburgh's lines. Forward Nick Bonino was elevated from third-line center to Malkin's usual position between left wing Jake Guentzel and right wing Phil Kessel. That line remained intact Monday and will likely look the same against Calgary.

Pittsburgh tweaked the other three lines with Hagelin missing practice. Wilson replaced Hagelin as third-line left wing next to Rowney and Hornqvist.

Right wing Bryan Rust was elevated back to Crosby's line and left wing Tom Kuhnhackl joined fourth-line center Matt Cullen and right wing Eric Fehr.

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