wakes up every day with the Moscow sun peeking through his window in the early morning hours.
Though the calendar declares these heavy summer days as the offseason, there hasn’t been any “off” for Malkin.
|Malkin skates in Moscow, Russia |
The Penguins star center has been all business in his native country, waking up early and heading to the gym or ice rink, working tirelessly to strengthen his right knee and improve his overall conditioning for the upcoming season.
“I have known ‘Geno’ for five years now and I have never seen him this committed to getting healthier and wanting to do well,” said Penguins strength & conditioning coach Mike Kadar, who has been training Malkin for the past two weeks in Russia.
“It has been an eye-opener for me with his determination and work ethic. He is committed to it every day, and with no short cuts.”
Malkin’s main focus this summer has been strengthening his right knee, which suffered ligament damage in a collision with Buffalo’s Tyler Myers in early February and forced him to miss the remainder of the 2010-11 season and playoffs.
Malkin, a former NHL scoring champion and playoff MVP, says his recovery is going well. He expects to be back to 100 percent by the start of Penguins training camp in mid-September, and believes he will not be limited at all during the camp by his knee.
“It feels better everyday,” said Malkin, who turned 25 years old Sunday. “It’s good, but not 100 percent yet, maybe 90. I’m skating it hard, but my knee feels good. Soon I will try (full speed). I push it more each day.”
While Malkin’s knee is gaining strength, so is the rest of his body. Along with Kadar and his friend/former teammate Sergei Gonchar, Malkin has been hitting the gym early in the morning to improve his overall body strength, swimming laps and running to improve his conditioning and finishing the day on the ice to better his hockey skills.
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“Kadar gives me drills and two practices a day,” Malkin said. “Kadar has coached me a long time. He knows my body. It’s hard work by myself and I don’t know all the (fitness techniques). It’s more fun with him around.
“’Gonch’ is a big help, too. He’ll help (motivate) me when Kadar leaves.”
All these early mornings, endless hours of sweat and dense workload will pay dividends when the summer sun loses its authority and the boys of winter hit the ice.
“I want to play my best for the team,” Malkin said. “I want to improve my skating, strengthen both my legs and become a faster skater. I want to be better for the whole year.”
“His biggest attribute is his size and being as coordinated as he is,” Kadar said. “He’s an athlete. He excels at pretty much everything he does. His competitive nature gives him a will to want to win at everything.”
Malkin’s competitive edge and motivation is helping him win all the little battles this offseason. And he hopes these little sacrifices will add up to the ultimate glory.
“I want to help my team with the Stanley Cup.”