Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, recovering from June knee surgery, took a significant step forward Saturday when he practiced with the team in a black – that is regular, presumed contact-allowed – jersey. In fact, he was the first skater on the ice for the session at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed on Thursday that Malkin had had some of the limitations on his practice regimen lifted. Being allowed to have some contact would be the next logical step, and it seemed to come quickly. Sullivan said after Saturday’s workout that Malkin continues to shed limitations and is allowed some contact, but is not quite completely clear of restrictions. Surely, though, Malkin is getting closer to playing.
Malkin had been practicing with the team in a white, no-contact jersey. Here is in the black at the start of practice:
And here he is working with the second power play unit:
Sullivan has said the club has a target date written in pencil for Malkin’s return to play, which will be his season debut, but he declined to divulge it.
It seems out of the question that he will play Sunday when the Penguins have a game in New Jersey. Sullivan could offer some sort of update post-practice.
Missing from practice was winger Jason Zucker. Sullivan said Zucker took a maintenance day.
Without Zucker, Malkin took some reps on a line with Jeff Carter and Danton Heinen. He essentially took Zucker’s spot at left wing, but Sullivan noted with a smile that Malkin, when he plays, will be at center.
Before practice, injured forwards Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Brian Boyle skated. You can judge for yourself how well Guentzel was stickhanding and shooting with what is suspected to be a right hand injury: