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Malkin could return for Pens' playoffs opener

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Apr 16 2014 09:28:03 AM CDT
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Injured Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin practiced Tuesday and could be available for the playoff opener on Wednesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Malkin missed the final 11 games of the regular season because of a foot injury suffered in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on March 23.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is pleased with Malkin's progress but was noncommittal on whether he could play in the first game of the best-of-seven first-round series in Pittsburgh, saying it will depend on how Malkin responds after the practice.

Game 2 is scheduled for Friday night.

Malkin's presence would be welcomed by the Penguins, who went 5-4-2 without him in the final weeks of the regular season.

"Teams change matchup and (defense) pairings in particular depending on whether they're home or away, in particular, or how they perceive the way the lines to be playing," Bylsma said.

Malkin missed 22 games this season but was still second on the team in points with 72 (23 goals, 49 assists).

Linemate Jussi Jokinen watched Malkin practice and thinks he looked like his old self.

"It seems like every time he's come back from an injury, he's played really well," Jokinen said. "I think he's had a lot of injuries throughout his career and every time he's come back, he's played really well, so we hope that's going to happen again."