We've seen it before in the past and we'll no doubt see it to start to season: It's time for Evgeni Malkin to take the reigns and lead this Penguins team.
In the past, we've all debated some of the finer points that come with the shift of leadership, so to speak. A prime example would be when Crosby went down with his ankle injury in 2007-08, Malkin was the one who stepped up in a big way to help keep the team on the path to the finals.
This year is going to have a similar feel. The only difference is, Malkin's coming back from an injury of his own. Malkin's knee is at "90 percent," according to a recent article in the Post-Gazette. Obviously if the team believed he wasn't 100 percent by the start of preseason, I don't see how/why they'd try and rush him into meaningless play. However, it would probably be ideal to let him get into a game or two toward the tail end of the preseason so he can test it out and get a feel for the ice again.
Whenever I've interviewed injured players in the past, or players coming back from injury, a good percentage of them say that they feel 100%. The only real problem is trying to get over the mental aspect of the injury. They feel fine. They know they're fine. Doctors have told them they're fine. But it may take a little while for a guy with an injury like Geno had to confidently cut a corner, hit the brakes or weave in and out. In my experience with interviewing basketball players, it was always in their head when it came to jumping up and landing back on the court. Sometimes you just have to go out there and just do it.
With that said, I don't know at this point whether or not we can expect to see Malkin hesitate a bit with regards to his on-ice play. That's solely on the player to adapt and persevere in the face of his own injury. However, I can say with 100% confidence that whenever he returns to the ice for the Penguins, he will be looked at as the leader of this team. With Crosby's slow, steady and safe progress as he aims for a healthy return, it's Malkin's turn to take the lead.
Is he ready?