Despite his ripe 37 years, Evgeni Malkin is still worth his weight in gold, much to the relief of his Pittsburgh Penguins who will need his offensive production to try to qualify for the playoffs.
The forward is fully living up to his four-year, $24.4 million deal signed in the summer of 2022. If head coach Mike Sullivan’s men have regained their energy after a slow start to the campaign, it’s largely thanks to the contributions of No. 71. While the club has a .500 record, it has 18 points in as many games and remains the leading asset in the center of the second line that is completed by Reilly Smith and Alex Nylander.
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According to Sullivan, the Russian has a lot of gas in the tank, which will certainly help in the Metropolitan section leaving some breathing room.
“He’s an ultra-talented guy and when his game is at its best, I don’t know if there’s a more dangerous hockey player than ‘Geno’ on the counter-attack,” commented the instructor to NHL.com. He has an unlimited ability to play and take advantage of opportunities. He is a threat in his own right, he can shoot the puck. We are pleased with his efforts to date and he can consistently deliver.”
“Geno can help us with his offensive ability in that the puck seems to follow him when he’s at the top of his game. That’s what he did recently.”
For his part, Malkin’s sidekick, Captain Sidney Crosby, knows he can count on a key ally both literally and figuratively.
“They rarely like him, especially with the disc, but also physically. With his style of play, he can advocate any style of play. He can apply a tight forecheck or skate more freely. He can use his talent and his size. When he acts like that, he’s hard to stop,” the veteran said of his 6’3” teammate.
Rage in the heart
According to Sullivan, the Penguins’ failure to qualify in the last series further motivated Malkin to allow his team to rack up wins. Before 2022-2023. he always played in the National League playoffs.
“I think he’s a dedicated guy. In my opinion, he took this last year’s setback personally. These guys have high expectations of themselves and this experience shook us all. I think “Geno” worked hard in the offseason. He showed up to training in great shape and worked hard afterwards. He tried to play the right way and was rewarded for his efforts,” he explained.
The “Pens” will visit the Buffalo Sabers on Friday night.