Penguins Notebook: Malkin is excited by arrival of playoffs
It has been a long season for Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, but he seemed thrilled Tuesday to arrive at the eve of the NHL playoffs.
“It’s fun,” Malkin said after practice at Southpointe. “We waited until the last day because we didn’t know which team we would play. It’s fun to watch.”
Malkin and the Penguins will meet the New York Islanders tonight at Consol Energy Center in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference series.
During the lockout that pushed the start of the NHL season to Jan. 19, Malkin played for his hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. Although he left Russia before that season was over to rejoin the Penguins, Malkin finished third in the KHL with 65 points in 37 games.
After winning the scoring title and Hart Trophy as MVP in 2011-12, Malkin had a dropoff in his NHL performance in a season that was interrupted at times because of a shoulder problem and a concussion. He played in 31 of the Penguins’ 48 games, finishing with nine goals, 33 points.
In the final three regular-season games, after an absence of four because of the shoulder, Malkin had a goal and four points. Now, he is ready to recapture the form that made him the best player in the NHL a year ago.
“I feel great,” Malkin said. “Nothing’s hurt. It’s exciting to play. We have a great team. I want to show my best game because this year wasn’t great for me. I have a chance to play better.”
He’s also looking for team redemption after the Penguins lost to Philadelphia in six games in the first round of the playoffs last year. It’s something he said he thinks about “a lot.”
“We played badly,” he said. “We lost with big scores. You can’t play like that in the playoffs. We need to play better in the defensive zone.”