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Evgeni Malkin back at practice, aiming for a return on Saturday

It’s almost Geno time!

NHL: OCT 05 Blue Jackets at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By the time Penguins’ practice ended on Monday, Evgeni Malkin was in a contact jersey and the team’s lines are almost recognizable to full strength.

Malkin mentioned at the end of practice that he feels great and is targeting Saturday’s game against Edmonton for a return to the lineup. That would mean missing only one more game, since the schedule has gone favorable for Pittsburgh this week.

The other news was good too - Alex Galchenyuk was back and while he’s officially a “game time decision” for tomorrow night, it doesn’t appear his absence will be much longer either. Ditto Brian Dumoulin, whose return has steadied the top two defensive pairs after a very noticeable absence.

Now the question might turn to which players stick when all players are off of injured reserve. Thanks to the trade of Erik Gudbranson the team could go 13 forwards (retaining Sam Lafferty and dropping Adam Johnson and Joseph Blandisi make to the AHL) and eight defensemen. After that, the question would be which forward is the scratch and can the Pens find a way to keep Lafferty dressed if the team is in full health.

Malkin seemed very upbeat in his return-

And he’s not all that wrong. The guys on the “5th line” of practice have been playing in the NHL most of October and have helped the team. Especially Lafferty with his speed and penalty killing.

Either way, health will give options and more strength for the Pens as they enter the second month of the season hopefully at least a bit more durable than the trials and tribulations they faced in the first month. The return of Malkin will be a big deal and prove very helpful for a team that needs more skill and secondary scoring behind the Sidney Crosby-Jake Guentzel duo.