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Malkin Wants to Keep Building Legacy

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

A generational talent who has accomplished so much, but isn't done yet.

That's what Mike Sullivan sees when he looks at Evgeni Malkin heading into the 2020-21 season, his 15th in the league.

"I think he has a certain perspective on the game and his career, and I think he has high expectations of himself - as he should - because he's such an elite player," Sullivan said. "Geno is a guy that really cares about winning and really cares about the Penguins. He's built a certain legacy here in his time. He has been one of the very best of his age group over the last decade-plus, and he's hungry for more."

Especially because at 34, Malkin understands he isn't getting any younger, which is something he's always been candid about. That adds an extra layer of motivation when looking at the opportunity ahead to keep adding to his individual and team legacy.

Malkin noted that if the Penguins capture another championship, he would become the first Russian-born player to win four Stanley Cups. Right now, he is tied with Igor Larionov, Sergei Federov and Sergei Brylin with three apiece.

"It's my motivation right now," said Malkin, whose 1,076 career points are third-most by a Russian-born player (Alex Ovechkin, 1,278; Federov, 1,179).

Malkin has also talked at length with the other members of the core leadership group, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, about how they want to make the most of their remaining time together as three of the all-time greatest Pittsburgh Penguins in team history.

"We talk a lot," Malkin said. "We're still hungry and we still want one more Cup, for sure. We're older every year. We don't know how many more years we will play together. We are excited to be together again this year. It's a great chance for the team to follow us and be leaders of this group."

Video: Malkin speaks to media after practice

One of the things Sullivan admires most about Malkin is his willingness to step up and put in the work to right the ship when things don't go the Penguins' way.

"Last year is a perfect example of that," Sullivan said.

Heading into training camp ahead of the 2019-20 season, Malkin vowed to return to his highest level of play after finishing the previous campaign with a team-worst minus-25 rating.

Malkin went on to do just that, finishing with 74 points (25G-49A) in 55 games for a 1.35 points-per-game average that ranked fifth in the league while playing some of the best two-way hockey of his career. He was especially dominant in the weeks that Crosby was sidelined after undergoing surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

Perhaps if Malkin had been able to ride that momentum straight into the playoffs, things might have been different. But instead, the Penguins didn't return to play until August after the NHL pressed pause in March.

They jumped right into postseason action in the Toronto bubble following a short training camp, and weren't able to find their game against Montreal - who eliminated the Penguins in three games during their best-of-three Qualifying Round matchup in August. 

During his virtual media availability on Tuesday, Malkin reiterated numerous times that the Penguins were still not pleased about how last season ended.

"Again, I want to say we are not happy with what happened last playoffs," Malkin said. "We are back and we want to be a stronger team and play so much better."

Malkin said he likes how the Penguins look heading into their season opener against the Flyers on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center, and he's anxious to get back at it after appearing in just four games over the last 10 months.

"I'm ready to play," he said. "I miss hockey a lot. We haven't played in a long time. Excited to be in Philly tomorrow."

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