MORRISVILLE, N.C. — Sidney Crosby, like most of the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fan base, had an immediate reaction after he injured Evgeni Malkin with a shot Thursday night at Florida.
It just wasn’t the one that might have been expected.
“He said, ‘Next time, I’ll shoot harder,’ ” Malkin said after the Penguins’ practice at Invisalign Arena this afternoon. “I’m lucky it was his shot, not like (Kris Letang) or (Jake Guentzel). We know Sid doesn’t shoot so hard.”
That was a pretty good jab he took at Crosby, but Malkin got one from a teammate after practice, too. Bryan Rust, like most players, has experienced something like Malkin did, but volunteered that there is a key distinction between the two of them.
“Most of the time, I’m trying to get in the way of it,” Rust said. “Not (being hit) accidentally.”
And Crosby, of course, was joking, probably because he — like most other players who have been struck by a shot in an unprotected area — understood that his shot likely caused more pain than damage.
Which proved to be the case.
Nonetheless, Malkin distilled his initial reaction to being hit by the puck to a simple phrase: “It’s pain.”
And make no mistake, there was plenty of it.
He said, though, that he was assured after the game that nothing had been broken by Crosby’s shot.
“I felt a little bit numb, my leg,” he said. “I was little bit scared because it was the same knee (that had been surgically repaired), but after like 10 or 15 minutes, I felt so much better. My knee started to feel better. I saw a bruise. I put ice (on it) and after a half-hour, I felt like I could walk. It was so much better.”
Crosby’s shot went off Malkin and into the net for what proved to be the game-winning goal against the Panthers.
“If I didn’t score, it would have felt so much worse,” Malkin said.
Although Crosby, who was at the top of the left circle while Malkin set up near the Florida net, obviously wasn’t trying to hit Malkin in the thigh with his shot, he apparently was sending it in his direction by design.
“When he looked at me, I knew he was going to shoot to my pants,” Malkin said. “Sometimes, we practice that.”
The Penguins didn’t seem to do it during Saturday’s workout, which looked a lot like any other for Malkin. And why Mike Sullivan seems so confident that Malkin will play against the Hurricanes.
“He’s a tough kid,” Sullivan said. “We’re fortunate that we dodged a bullet there. He’s feeling good. He skated well in practice, so we’re certainly encouraged by that.”
Indeed, Malkin moved around the ice with no apparent difficulty during practice, and said he believes he will be even closer to 100 percent when the Pittsburgh Penguins face the Hurricanes Sunday.
“It’s good that we had a couple of days before the (Carolina) game,” he said. “I hope tomorrow it feels a little bit better, for sure.”