Penguins center Evgeni Malkin joined his teammates for practice for the first time of the 2014-15 season at CONSOL Energy Center Tuesday afternoon.
Malkin, who has been dealing with an undisclosed injury since the beginning of training camp, had been skating on his own with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar since last Saturday.
“It’s a minor (injury). It’s not a big problem,” Malkin told the media in the locker room following practice. “It feels great. I need to get in better shape, but I’m glad to be back.
“I skated all practice and feel great, I’m not tired.”
Though his status is unknown for the Penguins’ season opener against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night, Malkin didn’t rule out playing.
“I can’t say right now (if I’ll play) because it’s my first practice with the team,” Malkin said. “It’s 50-50. If I feel I’m in great shape I’ll come back. If not then maybe the second game (of the season).”
During practice Malkin worked at left wing with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist. And a move to wing is something that Penguins head coach Mike Johnston is considering.
“Seeing who works best with (Malkin) will be a little bit of a process,” Johnston said. “I talked to him about whenever he does comeback, we might put him on the right wing.”
Malkin will skate on the right wing at Wednesday’s practice with center Brandon Sutter and fellow winger Pascal Dupuis.
“It takes away some defensive responsibilities right away if you haven’t played in that length of time,” Johnston said. “Sutter can play down low a little bit more. (Malkin) is a great center. We can use him at center. But getting him in with the best people right now we may play him on the wing.”
Malkin worked with a few teammates before practice on skill drills. During practice, he took part in every aspect, including a portion of the battle drills. Johnston was happy with what he saw from Malkin.
“I thought he looked pretty good for a guy that hasn’t been on the ice for a month,” Johnston said. “I thought he handled practice really well as far as conditioning and pace, moving up the speed when other players are going full speed. I was really encouraged by that.”