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Malkin will return from the third-longest break of his NHL career

Malkin has spent over 220 days out of NHL action. What can we expect from his upcoming return?

Anaheim Ducks v Pittsburgh Penguins
Pascal Dupuis celebrates a goal against the Anaheim Ducks with Evgeni Malkin during the Penguins’ 2014 season opened at Consol Energy Center on October 9.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Happy New Year— let’s raise a toast to Evgeni Malkin returning!

Well, returning soon, at least. The Penguins’ first game since the COVID-19 pause, a Sunday matinee against the visiting San Jose Sharks, won’t be featuring Malkin’s return.

But it looks like Malkin’s close to his return— and if he skates against the Blues in the Penguins’ following contest on Wednesday, January 5, it will be the first NHL action he has seen in 224 days, since Islanders bid him an unceremonious farewell on May 26 by booting the Penguins out of the 2021 postseason with a 5-3 Game 6 loss.

Let’s see how that stretch of absence ranks in Malkin’s career— and how the center usually does in his return after long absences.

Evgeni Malkin’s season starts

Game Date Days since last game played Final score Malkin's impact Through 10 games
Game Date Days since last game played Final score Malkin's impact Through 10 games
NJD vs. PIT 10/18/2006 2-1 loss EV goal, 18:38 P2 (Assists: Ryan Whitney, Mark Recchi) 8-6—14
PIT at CAR 10/5/2007 169 4-1 loss PP assist, 16:37 P3 (Goal: Mark Recchi) 3-10—13
PIT at OTT 10/4/2008 122 4-3 OT win SH goal, 3:18 P2 (Unassisted) 3-12—15
NYR vs. PIT 10/2/2009 112 3-2 win PP goal, 7:48 P1 (Assists: Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski) 4-9—13
PHI at PIT 10/7/2010 148 3-2 loss 5 shots, 2 PIM, -1 rating 3-5—8
PIT at VAN 10/6/2011 244 4-3 SO win EV assist, 5:04 P1 (Goal: James Neal), Shootout goal (vs. Roberto Luongo) 4-8—12
PIT at PHI 1/19/2013 272 3-1 win EV assist, 7:20 P1 (Goal: James Neal) 2-10—12
NJD vs. PIT 10/3/2013 118 3-0 win EV assist, 11:42 P3 (Goal: Craig Adams) 3-6—9
ANA vs. PIT 10/9/2014 149 6-4 win EV assist, 13:14 P1 (Goal: Pascal Dupuis) 5-10—15
PIT at DAL 10/8/2015 167 3-0 loss 4 shots, 2 PIM, 0 rating 4-6—10
WSH vs. PIT 10/13/2016 123 3-2 SO win PP assist, 8:47 P2 (Goal: Patric Hornqvist), Shootout goal (vs. Braden Holtby) 6-5—11
STL vs. PIT 10/4/2017 115 5-4 OT loss EV assist, 12:37 P2 (Goal: Olli Maatta), PP assist, 13:46 P3 (Goal: Sidney Crosby) 3-8—11
WSH vs. PIT 10/4/2018 150 7-6 OT win EV assist, 1:49 P1 (Goal: Jamie Oleksiak), EV goal, 2:45 P3 (Assists: Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby), PP assist, 1:20 OT (Goal: Kris Letang) 6-13—19
BUF vs. PIT 10/3/2019 170 3-1 loss PP goal, 5:50 P2 (Assists: Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby) 3-8—11
PIT at PHI 1/13/2021 159 6-3 loss 4 shots, 17:35 TOI, -1 rating 1-4—5
STL vs. PIT* 1/5/2022* 224* ? ? ?

224 days may sound like a lot, but it’s actually only Malkin’s third-longest absence from the NHL since his career began in 2006.

After the 2012-13 NHL season was postponed by a lockout, delaying the season start from the anticipated date of Oct. 11, 2012 all the way to Jan. 19, 2012, Malkin was out of NHL action for 272 days. This was a bit of a different situation, obviously— not only was everyone out of NHL action, but Malkin was able to keep ready in Russia, where he led the KHL with 23 goals and 42 assists in 37 games.

And two seasons prior, Malkin’s awkward collision with Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers on Feb. 4, 2011, tore his ACL and MCL and kept him out for the remainder of the season, earning him the No. 4 spot on Bleacher Report’s list of the “Most Devastating Injuries” of 2010-11 (right beside Sidney Crosby at No. 5!) It was 244 days until he would skate in the NHL again.

So, Malkin’s long break from the NHL isn’t unprecedented— but then, these are unprecedented times, and over 220 days is still a long time. Rejoining the team while half of the roster is out under COVID protocol will add an interesting twist to the alternate captain’s readjustment to the squad.

If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see another highlight-reel worthy season start— like on October 6, 2011, when after 244 days of devastating injury he scored the shootout winner:

Let’s hope we see a sequel to that thriller on January 5. (A comfortable win could be nice too!)