The Pittsburgh Penguins came into the current campaign knowing one of their biggest leaders Evgeni Malkin would miss a significant amount of time with a knee injury. The 35-year-old underwent surgery on his knee on June 4th, but no exact timeline had been given for his return.
However, on Saturday the Penguins announced that the Russian had been cleared for limited contact. Malkin had rejoined his teammates in practicing again back in late-November, but he was never allowed to take any contact. That has now changed, which is a great indication that he should be returning to action sooner rather than later.
Pittsburgh are understandably taking a cautious approach with the whole situation though.
“‘Geno’ wasn’t a full participant. He had limited contact,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said, via NHL.com. “Practice didn’t involve a whole lot of contact. Certainly, his participation was as close to what we’ve gotten to 100 percent. But he’s still in a limited contact fashion.”
Malkin is still an important member of the squad and will be able to make an immediate impact upon his return. He was able to put up an impressive 28 points in 33 games before he was sidelined with a knee injury.
“It’s always fun to see one of those guys that has been missing a lot of time,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “It gets lonely sometimes when you’re injured. To have him back out there, have him part of our practice and skates, it’s fun to see. Obviously, he’s a really good player. He looks pretty good out there. He makes everybody look better also. It’s pretty exciting.”
The Penguins are sitting fourth in the Metropolitan Division as they continue their pursuit of getting back to the playoffs for the 16th consecutive campaign. They have started to pick up momentum in recent weeks after initially struggling to start the season, but will be motivated by Malkin’s return to the ice.
“I think the fact that Geno is participating the way he is is real exciting for the group,” Sullivan said. “Anytime he’s on the ice, I think he brings a certain level of enthusiasm anyway, just with his personality. But the fact that he’s participating the way he does, I think is exciting for all of us.
“It’s obvious to say that we’re a better team when he’s in our lineup. He’s working his very hardest to try to get there as soon as he can. Our guys are excited about that opportunity.”
For a while, the Penguins were missing both captain Sidney Crosby and Malkin, but it looks like we will be seeing the two together again in the Penguins’ lineup. Crosby has four goals and 14 assists for 18 points in 17 games as he continues to perform despite having turned 34 years old in August.
It remains to be seen when exactly we will see Malkin back in an actual game for the Penguins, but don’t be shocked if it happens at some point during the holiday season.