Evgeni Malkin, out since March 15 with a shoulder injury, took part in an optional morning skate today in Newark, wearing a gray no-contact jersey.
He’s been skating regularly for a while now, but this was his first time on the ice with teammates.
Coach Mike Sullivan said he’d ideally like Malkin to get into one of the final two regular season games to help get his timing back before the playoffs, but it’s not a necessity.
Here’s what Malkin had to say after skating:
On how close he is to returning:
“I think very close. Day by day, skate, practice with team, skate tomorrow, every day I need to skate to be ready for playoffs. We still have, after this game, two left. I hope I play. I’m close, yeah.”
On how important it is to get into one of the last two games:
“I do my best. If I feel I can play last game or last two, I will. If not, I’m ready for playoffs. It’s tough to say right now. I’m trying to do my best. Every day feels better.”
On what he feels like he has to do before playoffs start:
“Just work hard. Be ready. We play against Columbus. It’s a tough team. You’ve got to be ready physically, in great shape. Do my job. Skate every day. Work off ice. Help my teammates. We need to be ready right away, first shift, in playoffs.”
On being out as long as he has:
“It’s a tough situation. It’s a surprise for me too. I feel pain every day. We take a little longer rest. Healing better. It’s not my (decision). We talk to doc. He gives me options. I talk to coach. We work together. They say, ‘We’ll give you more time and be ready to play 100 percent.’”
On whether he’s still feeling pain:
On Kris Letang’s season-ending injury:
“It’s tough for him. We try to support him. He’s with the team every day too, joking around. He’s a leader with the team. He’s a great player. I believe he’s a strong man. I believe he’s back next year for sure.”
— Trevor Daley skated in a regular jersey and is a game-time decision tonight. Judging by which defensemen stayed on the ice the longest, it looks like Daley is in.
Six D tonight are expected to be Daley, Dumoulin, Hainsey, Cole, Schultz and Ruhwedel. Streit and Gaunce look to be scratches.
— Matt Murray on the hill.
— Olli Maatta also skated in a no-contact jersey today. He continues his recovery from hand surgery.
— Bryan Rust suffered a lower-body injury Tuesday against Columbus, but he took part in morning skate and seemed ready to go tonight. He’ll be a game-time decision.
— If Rust (or anyone else) can’t go, Dominik Simon was called up from Wilkes-Barre just in case. Sullivan said the idea isn’t to play Simon and give someone else the night off. He is insurance.
— Crosby, Kessel, Bonino, Cole, Schultz and Hainsey did not skate. Sullivan said none of them has popped up on the injury report. They just took the option to stay off the ice.
— Tom Sestito (upper body) also practiced in a regular jersey.
— Carl Hagelin (and Kris Letang, for that matter) made the trip.
— Lots of personnel notes there. As for the game tonight, the Penguins could clinch second place with a win and a Columbus loss to Winnipeg.
The Penguins could also finish off a five-game season sweep of the Devils.
New Jersey coach John Hynes had an interesting take on facing the Penguins. It’s not their speed that stands out to him the most.
“I think everyone talks a lot about their speed. They’re a fast team. They play strong. But when you coach against them and play against them and watch them play, I personally think their competitiveness is their best asset, when you look at guys like Kuhnhackl, Sheary, the way Crosby plays. Lots of people talk about their D corps, all those guys go back, they touch pucks first. They can make plays under pressure. They’re strong at the net front. You look at their forwards, they play a fast game and they’re tenacious, but they’re relentless on the puck. I think that’s something, to beat Pittsburgh, you have to play with pace and speed, but you have to be able to get to the puck and win the puck and not let them have it all night.”
More after the game,