Evgeni Malkin has been sensational in 3-on-3 overtime this year, scoring two game-winning goals, and said he’s looking forward to playing alongside fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin – the captain of the Metropolitan Division team – in that format during the 2016 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 31 in Nashville.
As long as they have a conversation beforehand.
“He’s a skilled guy, but we need to talk before the game about how we play because ‘Ovi’ doesn’t backcheck,” Malkin joked. “If he stays on the blue line it’s a little bit hard. But we’ll see. I think it will be fine. But I hope we win.”
It helps that Malkin will have Pens teammate Kris Letang on his team in the tournament, which will feature three 20-minute games. Each of the 44 NHL players selected were divided into four teams by division, with each squad having 11 players.
Malkin, Letang and the Metropolitan Division will face the Atlantic Division squad in one semi-final, with the winner advancing to the championship game against the winning team from the showdown between the Central and Pacific Divisions.
“I can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out,” Letang said of the updated format. “It’s been exciting for everybody, I think, in the regular season, so can’t wait to see it in an All-Star format.”
Letang said while “it’s fun to see your name on that list,” he wasn’t thinking he would be selected. But Malkin said it’s an honor the defenseman deserves.
“He had a couple injuries this year but the last five games he’s played amazing,” Malkin said. “Lots of points, tough playing time. Very important defenseman on our team. Of course he deserves it.”
Malkin then stopped, grinned and added, “I’m glad I’m not by myself.”
But all jokes aside, Malkin also appreciates the honor of being selected to the game. And it's one he absolutely deserves as well, as he leads the Pens with 38 points – which also ranks first in the Metropolitan Division – and 19 goals.
“It’s hard (to be one of the players chosen),” he said. “It’s hard always. But it’s a good time with friends, get to see a couple Russian players – Ovi, (Vladimir) Tarasenko. It’s a good time. I know it’s Nashville, pretty good city. Couple good restaurants. It’s exciting. I want to say thank you to my fans who voted for me. It’s really appreciated. Looking forward to it. I want to play.”
NOTE: All expected players were at practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Friday, including Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust, who were recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday.