Evgeni Malkin is getting used to life with the Penguins.
The Russian star went through his first official team function Friday morning. Malkin, the 2004 second-overall pick, joined the other participants at the Penguins’ rookie camp for a battery of medical and physical tests at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine on the South Side.
“It was a little hard to wake up in the morning, but everything is going well and I am very happy,” said a smiling Malkin through translator Besa Tsintsadze. “Everything was perfect. The guys were good. Everybody was pushing the guys when we were doing our tests.”
Malkin was a little tired from watching the Steelers game Thursday night.
“He likes the city. He watched the Steelers game and he enjoyed it,” said Tsintsadze, who is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton speed skating coach.
So is Malkin a Steelers fan?
“Yes. He’s a Pittsburgh boy now,” Tsintsadze said.
Malkin will step on Mellon Arena ice for the first time Friday at 2 p.m. when the Penguins have an optional on-ice practice.
“I am very excited to step on the ice, but I need lunch now,” Malkin said just before noon.
Defenseman Noah Welch was happy to get the testing completed Friday morning.
“The best thing about testing is it keeps you honest during the summer. It gives you something to work at physically coming into camp. It’s good,” he said. “Obviously, if you do well on these tests, it doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and score 30 goals this year, but it does mean you were disciplined in the summer and you worked hard.
“I worked hard all summer. My goal is to make this team, nothing else. For me, I had a successful summer and I am healthy, which is the most important thing coming into camp,” he continued. “I worked hard and got a little quicker. This is over for me now, which is great. I get to focus on my game on the ice and stay in good shape. This is a pretty big weight off your back.
“This week is going to be a good week leading up to the big camp so you can iron out some wrinkles. It’s going to be a little faster and a step up from what we were doing this summer individually for me.”
Malkin kicked a soccer ball around with Tsintsadze and other rookies on the turf at the adjacent Steelers’ indoor practice facility in between tests. He even threw some passes with a football. He is eager to begin his NHL career in Pittsburgh.
“He’s great with this,” Tsintsadze said. “He says he’s very happy to meet the new guys and start a new generation here. He wishes the best luck for everybody.”