Evgeni Malkin is ready to go for Game 1

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Some more good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins on the injury front.

After getting defensemen Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta back in the lineup toward the end of the regular season, they will be getting an even bigger piece of their team back on Wednesday night when they open their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Evgeni Malkin, sidelined since March 15, said on Tuesday that he will back in the lineup for the start of the series.

He skated on a line with Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust on Tuesday at practice.

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It is obviously a huge addition to the lineup because it gives the Penguins that dominant center duo (along with Sidney Crosby) that is so difficult for teams to shut down. In 62 games during the regular season Malkin recorded 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) and finished in the top-15 in scoring even though he missed 20 games. His 1.16 point per game average was fourth best in the NHL behind only Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos (who only appeared in 17 games).

In other injury news for the Penguins, coach Mike Sullivan said it is possible that Carl Hagelin could also return before the end of the first-round and that he is currently considered day-to-day.

Even though the injury to Kris Letang is a huge factor for the Penguins’ defense, significantly weakening the group, they actually have a chance to put together a forward group that is stronger than the one they used in the playoffs a year ago (the Jake Guentzel for Eric Fehr trade off) if they can get Hagelin back in the lineup.

Sullivan also announced that goalie Matt Murray is good to go for Game 1. There was some concern when the Penguins did not send Tristin Jarry back down to the American Hockey League at the conclusion of the regular season, especially after Murray made an awkward save on a breakaway against New Jersey and was slow to get up.