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Malkin's Star Shines Bright

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins Evgeni Malkin is the lowest profiled high-profile player in the NHL. Because despite all of his talents and accomplishments, Malkin is often overlooked by the media and fans (not Pens fans though).

But Malkin was the center of attention during the 2012 All-Star Game – and the hockey world got a glimpse of just how funny, playful and candid the Russian superstar really is this past weekend in Ottawa.

Malkin, who entered the festivities as the NHL’s leading scorer and is, according to many of the All-Stars in attendance, the league’s best player, handled the spotlight that comes with being a professional athlete at the top of his game with confidence.

Malkin said he wasn’t feeling any extra pressure to be front and center this weekend, insisting that he was “just doing my job. … My English is not great. But I do what I can.”

But Malkin’s selling himself short there, as the 25-year-old center spoke on a variety of topics during interviews to the hordes of media throughout the weekend’s festivities.

Malkin’s most notable one came on Friday during All-Star Player Media Day, where he sat at a table next to friend and countryman Pavel Datysuk of the Detroit Red Wings and talked to the media – interspersing his dialogue with a few witty jokes – for nearly half an hour.

Granted, speaking to the media in his second language isn’t Malkin’s favorite thing in the world. How could it be? But he handled his responsibilities with aplomb and represented himself, the Penguins organization and NHL splendidly.

And once he finished those duties, Malkin was free to enjoy his time being around his Penguins teammates and friends throughout the league – while putting on a show for the fans he appreciates very much.

“Just having fun and enjoying the stay here,” Malkin said when asked what the best part of his time in Ottawa was. “I think I deserved to be here and everyone deserves to be here.”

Now that’s actually a true statement.

Being named to the 2012 All-Star roster meant a lot to Malkin after the long rehabilitation process he endured over the summer and fall for the knee he injured last February.

“It’s hard when I have a tough injury,” he admitted. “I worked hard in the summer. But it felt (bad) when I started playing. I played the first five games and I know I’m not feeling good. My knee started to feel a little bit sore. Even with so much time, it felt bad again. I can’t believe how long of a time it was – after six months, it started to be sore again. It’s so hard. But now I’m feeling good.”

And Malkin, who leads the NHL with 58 points (26G-32A) in just 42 games, entered the All-Star break on an absolute tear by piling up nine goals and 13 points in his last seven games.

And with the way he’s been playing, Malkin believes a second scoring title is within his reach.

“I try. I try to win every year,” he said. “If I don't have injuries or miss games with the injuries, I have a great chance. Why not? I have great confidence now and I’ll try.”

He knows the talented players that surrounded him this weekend in Ottawa will provide stiff competition for that trophy, and that there’s quite a lot of hockey left to be played. But when Malkin’s healthy and hungry like he is right now, the stars are the limit.

“There’s quite a few games left,” he said. “It’s pretty long. But (I have) a good chance to win.”
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