Penguins center Evgeni Malkin
returned to practice on Friday afternoon at Southpointe for the first time since taking a Kris Letang
shot off his foot on March 14 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Malkin left that contest following the second period and missed the Penguins’ two-game road swing through New Jersey and Boston on Wednesday and Thursday. Prior to both games Malkin attempted to skate on his own briefly before the morning skate, but was unable to participate in the main practice.
Malkin, the Penguins second-leading scorer with 23 goals and 69 points, was able to make it through the whole session on Friday, telling reporters after that he feels like he is getting better.
“I feel great,” Malkin said. “I was able to skate the whole practice, although not too fast. I feel better.”
Malkin and head coach Dan Bylsma both said it was encouraging that Malkin was able to rejoin his teammates, but neither would commit to Malkin’s playing status when the Penguins host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
“Yeah, I have a chance to play,” Malkin said. “My chances are not 100 percent. We play at 1 p.m. (Saturday) which is bad for me because we don’t have a morning skate. I do have a chance though.”
“It was encouraging because it was the most he was able to skate,” Bylsma said. “He is still a game-time decision (Saturday) so we will see. Without a morning skate it will depend how he reacts and how he skates in warmups.”
Malkin said he wants to get back into the lineup because he finds it difficult having to watch his team during these tough games down the stretch, although he was impressed with the Penguins’ performance during a 3-0 victory over the Bruins on Thursday.
“It’s always tough because I want to play every game,” Malkin said. “The guys did a great job (on Thursday) and played hard and physical. Matt Cooke
had a great fight with (Shawn) Thornton and Rupper (Mike Rupp) had a good one (with Zdeno Chara) too.”
If Malkin is able to dress against the Hurricanes, it looks like he will be back playing on a line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Alexei Ponikarovsky, whom he skated with during practice on Friday.
“My line with Feds and Ponikarovsky is a good line,” Malkin said. “We know how to play. … I am working every day to get back with them.”