Evgeni Malkin will make his season debut for the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, BSW, ATTSN-PT, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).
The center had knee surgery June 4. He practiced Monday on the second line between Jeff Carter and Kasperi Kapanen, and on the first power-play unit with Sidney Crosby, Evan Rodrigues, Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel.
“He’s practiced for quite a while,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think he looks really strong. He’s in great shape. He’s skating really well.”
Malkin began practicing Nov. 29 and was cleared for contact Dec. 27. Two days later, he said he felt the knee was “better and better” and that hoped to play within the next 10 days.
“He’s such a talented guy,” Sullivan said. “He’s the type of player that has the ability to have an impact immediately and I’m sure he will in this game. It will take him time for him to capture his very best game. He has missed a fair amount of time, so we have an understanding of that. We’re going to try to put him into positions where he can play to his strengths but we believe he will have an immediate impact.”
The Penguins (20-9-5) are fourth in the eight-team Metropolitan Division. Their NHL season-high 10-game winning streak ended with a 3-2 loss at the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
Malkin scored 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 33 games last season before he was injured on a hit from Boston Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi on March 16. He returned May 3 and played the final four regular-season games. He missed the first two games of the Stanley Cup First Round against the New York Islanders and returned to score five points (one goal, four assists) in four games. The Penguins were eliminated with a 5-3 loss in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series.
The 35-year-old said the decision to have knee surgery stemmed from a desire to play several more seasons in the NHL.
“I want to play three or four years more, and I don’t want to worry every game about my knee,” Malkin said Dec. 29. “Because now my knee is like 200 percent stronger. … I know it’s a little bit not easy, but I want to play three or four more years. I feel like I can.”
Malkin is in the final season of an eight-year, $76 million contract ($9.5 million average annual value) he signed with Pittsburgh on June 13, 2013.
“I’m not thinking about my contract right now,” Malkin said. “I’m not thinking about money. I’m like a pretty rich guy. I’m not thinking about money. This is my point: I have had like a tough half of a year. I want back my level of game.
“We have a great group. We have great coaches. I miss hockey so much. I want to enjoy every game.”
The three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017) has played 940 games in 16 NHL seasons, all for Pittsburgh, and is second behind teammate Sidney Crosby (1,061) in Penguins history. He’s third in Pittsburgh history in points (1,104) and assists (680), and fourth in goals (424).
NHL.com independent correspondent Wes Crosby contributed to this report