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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Like many youngsters, Evgeni Malkin grew up watching Mario Lemieux.

His eyes fixed to a television, Malkin watched with awe as Lemieux dominated the NHL in the 1990s.

Malkin was not able to see Lemieux in person, though. After all, the young Russian was half a world away in Magnitogorsk.

Nevertheless, Malkin had two of his dreams come true this week - he met No. 66 on Monday and signed his first NHL contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.

"I knew the name of Mario Lemieux when I was a kid and I watched a lot of the games with Mario's participation," Malkin said through a translator, Olga McQueen. "I know that Mario and Jaromir Jagr were a very, very strong line and it was very exciting for me to watch them play.

"[Monday], it was a very special evening for me to meet Mario. It was like a dream come true. To tell the truth, I felt a bit nervous, but I was welcomed so greatly that I became very thankful to Mario for his hospitality. It was very fantastic."

Lemieux is eager to see how well Malkin, the 2004 second-overall pick, fits in with the Penguins' talented young lineup.

"He has all the skills. We've been lucky, over the years, to get some great players here in Pittsburgh. We have two great ones here with Sid and Malkin," he said. "It's going to be very exciting here for the next 10-15 years again. I think this team is ready to step up and be a force in the NHL. It may take a year or two, but I am looking forward to more championships here in Pittsburgh."

Malkin's only weakness may be that he does not speak English. However, Lemieux, drafted first-overall in 1984, did not speak the language either when he came from Montreal to Pittsburgh and things seemed to work out well for him.

"I had the same problem when I came to Pittsburgh - I didn't speak any English. That's what I told him [Monday] night," Lemieux said. "It'll take some time and he just needs to be patient. Sergei [Gonchar] will be a big help to him as far as learning a new language and a new culture. We're going to try to help him as much as we can."


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