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Evgeni Malkin’s Explosive Return to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Lineup

Evgeni Malkin's Explosive Return to Pittsburgh's Lineup

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin has finally returned to the lineup, and no, he didn’t mess up the team’s dynamic. Sure, the line combinations did get a little interesting, but as always head coach Mike Sullivan made it work. With Malkin’s return to the lineup, Sullivan had to make a difficult call whether or not to move Jeff Carter from the second line center role. Instead, he may have found a new duo.

Malkin’s Return

Malkin’s return has not been an easy one. His right knee was injured on March 16 in a game against the Boston Bruins last season. He was sidelined for the rest of the regular season as well as the first two games in the playoffs. Many fans thought that his return would only disrupt the dynamic the team has built without his presence. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Evgeni Malkin's Explosive Return to Pittsburgh's Lineup


Image Courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

His season debut was Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks. Instead of returning to his normal center role on the second line, Sullivan slotted Malkin at Carter’s wing along with Kasperi Kapanen. It was an interesting decision as the two had hardly played together in the past. What’s more interesting is that Carter and Malkin scored a combined four goals.

Carter opened the scoring in the first period with a feed from Marcus Pettersson. In the second period, Malkin fired a slap shot goal on the powerplay, making it 2-0 in favor of the Penguins. The Ducks scored soon after, but then Malkin ripped another shot home. In the third period, Carter scored another goal with an assist from Malkin. Three points in your season debut? Not bad, Malkin.

What Now?

The Penguins are very nearly at full strength once again. Well, kind of. Unfortunately, Bryan Rust, Brock McGinn, Danton Heinen and Zach Aston-Reese remain in COVID protocol. What’s worse is that backup goaltender Casey DeSmith is also in the protocol. On the bright side, it shouldn’t be long before they return, and the Penguins are completely healthy.

Evgeni Malkin's Explosive Return to Pittsburgh's Lineup
Image Courtesy of Debora Robinson/Getty Images

Once they do return, the lines on offense are looking to be lethal. Sidney Crosby is going to be with Jake Guentzel and Rust, undoubtedly. Sullivan should keep Carter, Malkin and Kapanen together. The third line will likely be centered by Brian Boyle with Evan Rodrigues and Heinen at the wings. The fourth line will be the checking line of Teddy Blueger, Aston-Reese and McGinn. It isn’t looking too bad.

The line combinations above are certainly speculation and are subject to change. However, if Sullivan makes them look like that, then there are three lines of incredible scoring talent and the fourth line with immaculate defensive play. This team is squaring up to be loaded with talent and chemistry. If Pittsburgh stays healthy after all of these players return, then there’s nothing stopping them from reaching the playoffs.

 

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