Report: Evgeni Malkin on the ‘fast track’ to recovery from knee surgery

While the initial prognosis was that Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin would need six months to recover from surgery on a torn ACL and MCL, Dmitry Chesnokov reports that the Russian forward is ahead of schedule. Chesnokov points to a Russian report straight from Malkin’s father that the Penguins center began on-ice workouts in mid-May and was already undergoing rehab in Pittsburgh in that month.

Even after struggling in the last season and a half, there’s no doubt that the Penguins are a more explosive offensive team with Malkin in the lineup. He already has two 100+ point seasons to his credit – including 113 in 2008-09 to earn the Art Ross Trophy – but the team hopes that the 25-year-old scorer’s best days aren’t behind him.

Getting Malkin back would be a big boost for the Penguins, especially with Sidney Crosby’s status seemingly improving but undoubtedly uncertain. Chesnokov points to somewhat controversial comments made by Mario Tremblay, who claims that Crosby suffered two concussions in his junior hockey days, indicating that the all-world forward might have suffered four (rather than two) concussions in a short period of time.

Who knows how valid Tremblay’s claims might be, but they underscore how careful the Penguins must be with Crosby’s rehab process. One must hope that the team watches over Malkin’s situation with caution as well. It’s great that he is showing the spirit to fight back from always-worrisome knee problems, but there’s also the worry that he might push too hard to come back too soon and might aggravate the injury again.

Both of the Penguins’ short and long-term futures are still in doubt, which must be a disturbing circumstance about two years after they raised the 2009 Stanley Cup. We’ll keep you updated about each players’ statuses as training camp and the beginning of the 2011-12 season approaches.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”