Penguins' Burke: Malkin 'still a ways away' from returning
It appears Evgeni Malkin will require more time recovering from offseason knee surgery than initially anticipated.
Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke pumped the brakes on any possible return in the near future for Malkin, despite the fact that the star center participated in the team's morning skate Monday.
"He's not close to playing," Burke told Sportsnet, according to Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He's still a ways away. But just his presence out there gave us a lift.
"He's an elite player. He's a great kid and it was really nice to see him out there, even though, like I say, let's not get carried away here. This guy still (has) some time to go."
Malkin underwent knee surgery in June. He was given a timeline of "at least two more months" on Sept. 23.
But despite missing Malkin and Sidney Crosby being out for 12 games, the Penguins entered Monday with a 10-7-4 record.
Malkin's recovery has significant international ramifications as well. If he's unable to return in time for the Olympics in February, the Russian Olympic Committee will be razor thin down the middle of the ice, considering Evgeny Kuznetsov is still serving a four-year ban by the IIHF. That would leave Ivan Barbashev as the nation's top remaining center option from the NHL.
The 35-year-old Malkin was productive when healthy in 2020-21, recording 28 points in 33 games.