The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

January 15, 2013

MVP Malkin returns to Penguins happy

PITTSBURGH — While the rest of his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates got taped up before practice on Tuesday, Evgeni Malkin ducked off to the side and picked up a couple of personal items that’d been waiting for him during his four-month working vacation in his native Russia.

You know, just the Hart Trophy for being named the NHL’s Most Valuable Player last season. Oh, and the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring, too.

Forgive Malkin if he hadn’t bothered collecting two of the most hallowed awards earlier. The whole individual award thing isn’t really his deal.

To be honest, the 26-year-old has his sights set on something a little more cherished this spring.

Malkin called 2011-12 a “lucky” season, even if scoring 50 goals and handing out 59 assists while carrying the Penguins for long stretches took something more than simple good fortune.

“I had a big injury and came back and played well,” Malkin said. “We had a great line, but we didn’t win the Stanley Cup.”

Malkin’s dominance put to rest any lingering concerns about his surgically repaired right knee. Rather than take a break from the game during the NHL’s labor dispute, Malkin return to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

It took a little while to get used to the wider sheet of ice. Once he made the adjustment, he took off, finishing with 23 goals and 42 assists in 37 games.

“It’s hard playing you know but I like it,” Malkin said.

Yet he was more than happy to get back to his regular job once a new collective bargaining agreement was reached earlier this month. He flew back to the U.S. over the weekend. During his layover in New York, he started text bombing teammates in his charmingly truncated version of the English language.

Despite being jet lagged, he practiced for nearly three hours on Monday and appeared to be just fine on Tuesday. Barreling up the Consol Energy Center ice like a train with the brakes cut, Malkin hardly appeared fatigued from his moonlighting gig back home.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I’m in good shape. I’m ready to play (the season opener in) Philadelphia. The first game we’ve got to start hard with lots of hits. I have no injuries, nothing is sore.”

Except perhaps his nerves following an ugly first-round loss to the Flyers in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Malkin had eight points (three goals) in six games but it didn’t matter in a series that more resembled a hockey version of an “And 1” mixtape.

The Penguins expect the loss to fuel Malkin, even if duplicating his play from a year ago may prove difficult. The sublime chemistry he had on his line last year with wingers James Neal and Steve Sullivan will change now that Sullivan is playing in Phoenix.

Pittsburgh is hosting what amounts to an open tryout for Sullivan’s replacement, with Eric Tangradi and Beau Bennett getting the first crack. Both will play with Neal and Malkin during an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday, the closest thing to an exhibition the Penguins can manage with just a week to get ready for a 48-game sprint to the playoffs.

Tangradi knows his job description will be something along the lines of “get Malkin the puck and get out of the way.” And with Crosby 100 percent after dealing with concussion-like symptoms for more than a year, the pressure won’t squarely be on Malkin’s massive shoulders.

That’s why Crosby isn’t putting it past Malkin to win his third scoring title or even make a run at consecutive MVPs.

“He’s definitely capable of it,” Crosby said. “Whatever is his best, we’ll take that and I think we’ll be fine.”

Even if getting his arms around another group of individual awards is the farthest thing from Malkin’s mind. Following two straight first-round exits – including one he watched in street clothes while his knee healed – Malkin is focused on a certain silver chalice, not stocking his own personal trophy case.

“If you could hear him speak after two years ago not being able to play in the playoffs and even after the end of this year with how we excited in the playoffs, it’s not ‘oh well, I got the MVP trophy,”’ coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s a totally different mindset.”

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads