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Malkin's Only Goal: "Win The Stanley Cup"

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Takeaway:

> Evgeni Malkin's goal: "Win the Stanley Cup."
> Malkin is looking to bounce back after an injury-riddle campaign last season.
> Malkin looks forward to a move to the wing.
> This season Malkin hopes to be more of an off-ice leader.
> Head coach Dan Bylsma visited Malkin in Russia earlier this summer

When Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin sat in his stall at CONSOL Energy Center for the first time on Friday morning and met with reporters to discuss the upcoming season, the 24-year-old superstar was asked: What would be a good year for Evgeni Malkin?

“Win the Stanley Cup,” Malkin retorted instantly without any hesitation.

Such a mindset helps make the 6-foot-3, 195-pound superstar stand out in a professional sports world that is more about “me” than “team.”

Head coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t surprised to hear Malkin’s comments when he was told them later in the morning.

“I keep getting smacked in the face with that from ‘Geno’ when I ask him about what he wants from his season and what he thinks is good and bad,” Bylsma said. “He thinks he had a bad season last year because we didn’t win the Stanley Cup, not because of the points he did or didn’t get.

“When you talk to him about his future goals, he wants to win Stanley Cups here in Pittsburgh. I am not surprised he gave you that comment. When you have that team-oriented goal from your top guys, I think that is an awesome thing for our team.”

Anybody with even a passing interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins knows how important Malkin, who was the Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophy winner during the team’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship season, is to the team’s success.

Malkin, who was the Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophy winner during the team’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship run, trained this summer intent on coming back this season and having a dominant campaign more reminiscent of his back-to-back Hart Trophy (league MVP) runner-up finishes in ’07-08 and ’08-09, as opposed to his injury-plagued 77-point (in 67 games) finish in ’09-10.

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“I know last year wasn’t the best for me,” Malkin said. “We’ll see how I play this year. I hope to play well. I am excited for the new season and playing in the new building.”

Fellow forward and frequent linemate Maxime Talbot says that the injuries and point reduction Malkin dealt with last season are in the past, and the way the two-time 100-point scorer was bouncing around CONSOL Energy Center on Friday is a good sign for the team moving forward.

“He looks great,” Talbot said. “I was watching him in the gym, he’s got good spirit and he’s ready to go. He’s been laughing all day today and he’s excited to be here and excited to start playing.”

Malkin also addressed a potential position switch to the wing when center Jordan Staal returns from his foot injury sometime during the early portion of the regular season. The two spent much of their rookie season playing together in ’06-07.

“It doesn’t matter what position I play – I just like playing hockey,” Malkin said. “I think because of Staalsy’s surgery I will play center at the start of camp, but we’ll see. I like playing the wing. It’s not a problem for me. I like playing with Staal because he is a good setup guy. We have played together a couple times and we do a good job scoring when we play together. I am excited for that.”

As Malkin, an alternate captain, gets set to begin his fifth National Hockey League campaign, he hopes to not only regain top form on the ice, he also plans to step forward and take on more of a leadership role for the team following the offseason departures of veteran alternate captains Sergei Gonchar and Bill Guerin.

“I am going to try to be more of a leader because it’s my fifth year here,” Malkin said. “I want to help the young guys and all of the new guys to the team. I don’t want to just be a leader on the ice.”

Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin talks to reporters on Friday morning at CONSOL Energy Center.
Taking on more of a leadership role isn’t the only change Malkin will experience this season. Gonchar’s offseason departure leaves Malkin the lone Russian on the team this season, but he seems to have no problem with that.

“Maybe I will learn more English and talk to the media more,” Malkin joked.

In addition to his training, Malkin played the role of accompanying guest this summer as Bylmsa stopped by to visit him in Moscow when the Penguins head coach was on vacation with his family in Europe.

Bylsma spent two days traveling around Russia’s capital city with Malkin. While the two spent some time discussing expectations for the 2010-11 season, Bylsma’s visit was more a chance for the two to bond together outside of the rink.

Malkin took Bylsma to several restaurants, including one where they met with a Russian Penguins fan club.

“He came to Russia for a couple days,” Malkin said. “I met him and we just went around Moscow. I showed him around a bit. We had a great time. Actually it was fun for me, I don’t know about him. You’ll have to ask him.”

When asked, Bylsma said that he very much enjoyed his time with Malkin – especially the fact that Malkin had to serve as his tour guide.

“That’s because I speak Russian,” Malkin said with a smile. “He didn’t know how. I stayed by him and translated. I think he liked that.”

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