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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins 2004 second-overall pick Evgeni Malkin will apparently play for Russia at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament in Vancouver later this month.

At first, Malkin was not slated to take part in the tournament and his name was reportedly left off the Russian Federation’s original world junior roster. However, Dave King, the coach of Metallurg Magnitogorsk – Malkin’s Russian Super League team – confirmed Malkin’s inclusion on the Russian roster for the tournament.

“He’s very excited about going,” King told the Toronto Globe and Mail. “He’s just a great kid, with lots of enthusiasm for the game.”

There was some concern about Malkin’s participation in the World Junior Championship because the 19-year-old is expected to play for Russia in the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy in February. In addition, Malkin is slated to play for Russia in the Baltica Cup this weekend.

Malkin, drafted after countryman Alexander Ovechkin in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, participated in the 2005 World Junior Championship tournament. He helped guide Russia to the title game, but fell to Sidney Crosby and Team Canada. The Penguins selected Crosby first-overall in this year’s draft. Malkin finished the tournament second on the team in scoring behind Ovechkin with 10 points (3+7) in six games.

Malkin and Russia open the 2006 World Junior Championship event on Dec. 26 against Sweden. Russia meets Solvakia on Dec. 28, Latvia on Dec. 29 and the Czech Republic on Dec. 31 to close out pool play. The playoff round begins Jan. 2.

Malkin, a 6-foot-3, 186-pound center, recently had four points (2+2) for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in a 7-3 win over SKA St. Petersburg. He leads the Russian Super League in goals (14), assists (20) and points (34) in 31 games for first-place Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Defenseman Valdimir Malenkykh, Pittsburgh’s 1999 fifth-round choice, also plays for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He has one assist in 15 games.

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