Malkin's Line Flourishes at First Camp Scrimmage
Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 7:01 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
The line of Steve Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy sure gave the fans a show at Saturday's intra-squad scrimmage that was open to the public.
The line combined for four goals, with Kennedy scoring twice, Sullivan tallying once and Malkin converting a penalty shot in Team White’s 5-1 win over Team Black. Richard Park also scored for Team White while James Neal got on the board for Team Black.
“It's tough not to notice Tyler Kennedy, Malkin and Sullivan together,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I was hoping to get a hat trick for TK so my hat could come on the ice. They were particularly good.”
The scrimmage marked Malkin’s first skate with the team since suffering ligament damage in his right knee on Feb. 4 vs. Buffalo.
Although he’s been removed from the intensity of such skates for such an extended period of time, Malkin looked like he hadn’t missed a step – and it was clear that the Penguins center was having a blast.
“Awesome, awesome,” Malkin said when asked how his timing was. “I just had fun.”
And his teammates thoroughly enjoyed seeing Malkin back in action – even the goaltender he scored on.
“It's the old ‘Geno’ that we know, so it's good to see,” smiled Marc-Andre Fleury.
Kennedy started the scoring just 40 seconds into the scrimmage, which consisted of two 15-minute periods.
On the play, Kennedy carried the puck down the far side and danced with the puck on his stick before snapping a shot over goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s shoulder.
Kennedy’s second goal came just one minute later on a gorgeous play to put Team White up 2-0. Malkin took the puck behind the goal line, banked himself a pass off the back of the net and then found Kennedy to the side of the cage, who whipped a shot into the netting.
“I was just trying to get the puck on net and they went in,” Kennedy said. “My main focus right now is trying to get my shot down and getting pucks to the net. “
Sullivan admitted with a smile that he and Malkin were trying to help Kennedy get that third goal for the hat trick.
“I know it’s only training camp in a scrimmage, but it’s always good to try and score three goals,” Sullivan said. “We had a couple set plays we were going to try and do if we could kind spring them late in the game. … It didn’t work out, but we tried.”
Kennedy, who had a breakout year in 2010-11 with a career-high 21 goals and 45 points, looked fantastic during the skate, displaying his typical energy, hustle and quickness.
But he credited Malkin and Sullivan with helping him do well, saying “They’re just two great players. As long as you talk and let each other know where you’re going, it makes things easy.”
Although Malkin and Kennedy haven’t ever been linemates for an extended period of time, they still have plenty of familiarity with each other being teammates for four seasons.
It’s something Sullivan picked up on right away.
“I think you can see them on the ice that they read each other very well,” he said. “Today I just tried to stay out of the way and made sure I let them do their things. If I was able to make some contributions, get them the puck at the right place at the right time.”
He did just that and more, scoring a goal of his own with one minute remaining in the first period off a pretty setup from Kennedy to give Team White up 5-1.
“He’s a fast guy that creates a lot of room for other guys,” Kennedy said. “You can tell he’s a veteran. He makes smart plays and the right plays at the right time. It’s good to see.”
Only time will tell if the Sullivan-Malkin-Kennedy trio sticks together, but the trio wouldn’t mind one bit if they did.
“I think playing with those two players, it’s pretty easy,” Sullivan said. “Playing with talented players like that, it’s really refreshing.”