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Evgeni Malkin returns to practice, feels his body is “a little bit stronger” for playoff run

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Pittsburgh should get their other star center back before the end of the regular season, based off his comments after practice today

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, for the first time in two weeks, Evgeni Malkin skated with the Penguins. As such, he was eligible to speak with the media afterwards as injured players who don’t participate don’t talk publicly.

Geno held court and, whoa baby, he didn’t hold a lot back.

On if it felt good to be back on the ice and practicing with the guys:

[laughing] “You ask me all the time when I have injury I’m back to play with the team and yeah it’s always fun. I skate by myself a lot the last week. It’s a little bit hard but it’s more fun to play with your teammates. It’s still lots of work. I hope to be back soon.”

On how many games he needs to get back into it before the playoffs:

“More games is better, but I can’t rush right now. It’s just four games left, I’m not [going] to play all of them. I’m trying [to play] like one or two. But I feel it’s good for me to play two or three games but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Every day is important.”

Was he surprised there was no penalty or discipline on Robert Bortuzzo for cross-checking him:

“Surprised there was no penalty in the game. It’s a game and we understand that when teams play against us [they’re going to] play so hard, they try sometimes to play dirty but I don’t care right now. I’m just focused on my game and [to get] back soon. It’s [about to be] playoffs, we need to get ready, it’s [not] always clean game.

Since Malkin knows Bortuzzo from his time in Pittsburgh was he surprised Bort did it:

“I’m not surprised because he’s always played like this. He played here many games. He can fight, he can block shots, he’s not a goal-scoring defenseman. He’s a tough defenseman. I’m surprised because I did not see him. He’s coming to my side. I think it should [have been] a penalty for sure. But it’s a long time ago, I forget that. But I hope I see him in the [Stanley Cup] Final.”

Is this going to feel better with time or be a nagging injury:

“It’s always better [to be] playing. It’s not easy when you’re [in this situation] to be in like five, six games and back and play right away....How will my body feel, how will my confidence feel? I hope to play like one or two games before playoffs but team is playing clearly good right now but I want to be back and help team play better. I think before playoffs we need more guys back like me and Tanger. We have a good group to win every round.

Is it frustrating to be injured this time of year?

Yeah, always [getting] injured, it’s a little bit frustrating. I don’t have [the] puck, I’m just play power play, I get hit with cross-check, I get a little bit frustrated but you never know when injuries come. I feel, right now, a little bit rested. My body is a little bit stronger right now. I feel positive things, like: OK, I have injury, but what can I do? [I can] work my body, work my legs. My confidence- I try to watch video, watch every game my teammates play. I try to stay positive. I try to be a nice guy.”

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Based off this interview, and the fact Malkin was in a no-contact jersey - expect him not to play tomorrow against the Carolina Hurricanes. Tuesday the Penguins travel to Detroit, and maybe Geno will be out for that too.

The last two regular season games are at home on Thursday against those same Red Wings and then a regular season finale is next Saturday at home against the Rangers. Surely by then, if all goes to plan, Malkin should be back for the latter games as he and the team gears up for the Stanley Cup playoffs. From the sounds of it, the Pens’ other star center is chomping at the bit to be ready for the games that matter most.