Malkin eager to show he's 'not done' with Penguins
Center started workouts early hoping for bounce-back seasonby Wes Crosby / NHL.com Independent Correspondent
CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Evgeni Malkin has something to prove entering his 14th season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I want to show everyone I'm not done," the Penguins center said Friday. "I'm excited to show everything."
The 33-year-old had 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 68 games last season but was most bothered by his NHL career-low minus-25 rating and Pittsburgh-leading 89 penalty minutes.
That led Malkin to approach his offseason training differently.
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Forward Alex Galchenyuk, who was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes involving forward Phil Kessel on June 29, skated with Malkin in Miami once. Malkin then traveled to Moscow, where he took the ice with several NHL players. He returned to Pittsburgh two weeks ago, earlier than usual, to join some Penguins teammates for informal skates.
"When you have a bad year, you want back," Malkin said. "It's like my points [last year], it's not a great year. Last year, I'm not happy, for sure. Now it's a new challenge this year. I want back, my highest level. It's like I knew I can still play at the top level."
Malkin said he is not only focused on changing his individual performance. He wants to see the Penguins improve after being swept by the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Malkin started that series with one goal and one assist in Game 1 before having one assist in the final three games.
Video: Rob Rossi on introspective conversations with Malkin
Sidney Crosby, who had one assist in the series, said Malkin's struggles weren't exclusive. But Crosby said he does think they'll fuel his longtime teammate.
"I think everyone goes through different points in a season. Sometimes it comes easier than others," Crosby said. "He continued to compete and worked through it, just as other guys went through different things last year too. I think it's a fresh start for everybody. I think everyone is excited about that.
"[Evgeni] is competitive. He expects a lot out of himself. I'm sure he's excited to get a clean slate too."
That was the case for one moment Friday, the Penguins' first day of training camp at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. In a scrimmage between a team led by Malkin and another with Crosby, Malkin stole the puck at the blue line for a breakaway before shooting over goalie Matt Murray's glove.
"I just see the high glove a little bit open," Malkin said. "I just shoot it. It's not like a pretty goal. But I'm excited. It's the first exhibition game, and I have a little bit more confidence right now."
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he thought that confidence, and the effort behind it, was noticeable.
"He's in great shape," Sullivan said. "He's worked extremely hard over the summer to prepare himself for this training camp. I know how important it is to him. It's important for him to be a leader. It starts with his example."
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Malkin's shot deflects in for PPG
Malkin spent rushes centering the second line with Galchenyuk at left wing and Brandon Tanev at right wing. Tanev was signed to a six-year contract July 1.
"They're hungry," Malkin said of Galchenyuk, 25, and Tanev, 27. "They're young. We want to win every game."
Malkin said he thinks he's just as hungry. But with being older, and the championship window for Pittsburgh's core of Malkin, Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang shrinking, he is determined to take on that leadership role.
"I know I'm 33 years old," Malkin said. "There are young guys here. But I want to be a leader here. We have a great team. We have a couple -- maybe two, three or four -- chances to win again."