Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin says his knee is at 90% now, expects to be ready for training camp

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When Evgeni Malkin went down with a brutal right knee injury last season, it was a blow to the Penguins lineup they absolutely could not afford with Sidney Crosby already out with a concussion. Losing both of their superstar centers at the same time proved to be something the Penguins couldn’t totally overcome in the end as they were bounced out of the playoffs by Tampa Bay in the first round in seven games.

With the severity of Malkin’s injury and his tenacious work ethic in rehabbing his knee after surgery, the next step for him is to get the knee’s health back to 100%. With the long summer break leading up to training camp in mid-September, Malkin is working hard to get back into action.

Sam Kasan of Penguins.com gets the word from Malkin about how good his knee feels and where he’s at in his rehabilitation process.

Malkin, a former NHL scoring champion and playoff MVP, says his recovery is going well. He expects to be back to 100 percent by the start of Penguins training camp in mid-September, and believes he will not be limited at all during the camp by his knee.

“It feels better everyday,” said Malkin, who turned 25 years old Sunday. “It’s good, but not 100 percent yet, maybe 90. I’m skating it hard, but my knee feels good. Soon I will try (full speed). I push it more each day.”

This is great news for the Penguins as getting Malkin back fully recovered will give them at least one of their big time stars to have at the start of the season. With Sidney Crosby’s progress still slow in coming back from a concussion suffered in early January, the Penguins still aren’t quite sure if they’ll have him at the start of training camp and ready to go.

While the Penguins weren’t overly busy in free agency, getting both Malkin and Crosby back will make all the difference in the world for Pittsburgh offensively. The team learned to become a lot better defensively all around last year with both of them out, but if you can inject their offensive production into that lineup with better defense, the Penguins shape up to be that same juggernaut-like team they were before things blew up on them last season.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.