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MALKIN EAGER TO MAKE NHL DEBUT WEDNESDAY

Monday, 10.16.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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MALKIN EAGER TO MAKE NHL DEBUT WEDNESDAY
Malkin will be in the middle Wednesday night.

Penguins rookie Evgeni Malkin will make his NHL debut against the New Jersey Devils at Mellon Arena.

Malkin suffered a dislocated shoulder on Sept. 20 in a pre-season game in Moncton, New Brunswick. He has been cleared to play and is excited to take the ice.

“I am in good shape,” he said through teammate/landlord/translator Sergei Gonchar. “I feel good. My arm is in good shape, so everything is good.

“I just want to play hockey.”

Penguins coach Michel Therrien is eager to write No. 71 onto his lineup card.

“Malkin will make his NHL debut Wednesday and we’re all excited,” he said. “He worked really hard to come back pretty quickly, as far as we’re concerned. We’re more than excited to see him back in the lineup.”

Malkin, who wore extra padding on his shoulder at Monday’s practice, is completely healthy and back in game shape.

“He is more than 100 percent healthy for Wednesday,” Therrien said. “We know he is ready to play.”

Malkin will center the Penguins’ second line with Ryan Malone on the left wing and Mark Recchi on the right. The three enjoyed successful chemistry before Malkin’s injury.

“He’s a great player and he’s going to be a big part of this team, so we’re excited to have him in the lineup,” Malone said. “I think everyone’s excited to see just how well he can do. I think he’s only had five shifts to get used to the NHL experience, so it might be a little bit of an adjustment process for him, but I don’t think it’ll be too tough for him.

“He’s a big kid. He can skate. He has great hands and vision. He’s a great player,” he continued. “I think the only thing will be getting used to the contact again and the little things like that. I think he’s going to be a great player for us. I think he will be just fine out there.”

Recchi is excited to skate alongside Malkin.

“We didn’t get a chance to play with each other much, but we had pretty good chemistry in training camp and practice and scrimmages. Hopefully, we can go out there and help him out,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting to see him, but Bugsy and I have to be on top of our games to help him out.

“He looks good. He’s skating well. Hopefully he jumps in and lights it up, but we have to remember that he’s only played one period in a while of high-tempo hockey,” he continued. “He can work his way in. Playing three games in four nights will get him a chance to work his way in.”

Recchi doesn’t want Malkin to feel any pressure. He just wants to make sure the 20-year-old has fun playing hockey.

“Bugsy and I will help him out and talk to him,” he said. “The biggest thing is that we’re going to have fun together. We’re going to go out there and play hard and communicate and enjoy it.”

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