After avoiding surgery, Malkin says elbow is ‘pretty strong right now’

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Breathe easy, Penguins fans — the elbow injury that plagued Evgeni Malkin throughout the final four months of last season is a thing of the past.

“Everything’s good,” Malkin said over the weekend, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s pretty strong right now. I worked all summer. There’s nothing wrong, no pain. I feel good.”

Malkin, who turned 30 this summer, was initially hurt back in early March on a check from Columbus d-man Dalton Prout. That sidelined the big Russian for the final 15 games of the regular season — and Pittsburgh’s first playoff game — though Malkin did return to help the Pens capture their first Stanley Cup since 2009.

But it wasn’t easy.

Malkin was clearly in discomfort throughout the playoff run. Pens GM Jim Rutherford classified the elbow ailment as a “real serious injury” and praised Malkin, because he “played before most guys would  have played.”

Statistically, Malkin was strong (18 points in 23 games), but there were signs he was limited. His TOI dropped to 17:31 — down from 19:22 in the regular season — and, during the final series against San Jose, head coach Mike Sullivan acknowledged there was “another level” Malkin could reach after going pointless through the first three games.

Malkin had an MRI following the season and, shortly thereafter, the decision was made to avoid surgery and undergo rehab.

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