Evgeni Malkin will be a game-time decision for the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, BSW, ATTSN-PT, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).
The center has yet to play this season after having knee surgery June 4. He practiced Monday on the second line between Jeff Carter and Kasperi Kapanen, and on the first power-play unit with Sidney Crosby, Evan Rodrigues, Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel.
“I would anticipate at this point that ‘Geno’ will be a game-time decision,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
Malkin began practicing Nov. 29 and was cleared for contact Dec. 27. Two days later, he said he was hoping to play within the next 10 days.
“Every day, I feel it’s better and better,” Malkin said. “Last six months, it’s not fun. It’s not easy. I was injured, my knee injury. It’s a long process. I had the surgery after last season and it’s slow every day. But now it’s more fun. Glad to be back with the team. I hope I play soon.”
The Penguins (20-9-5) are fourth in the Metropolitan Division. Their NHL season-high 10-game winning streak ended with a 3-2 loss at the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
Malkin scored 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 33 games last season before he was injured on a hit from Boston Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi on March 16. He returned May 3 and played the final four regular-season games. He missed the first two games of the Stanley Cup First Round against the New York Islanders and returned to score five points (one goal, four assists) in four games. The Penguins were eliminated with a 5-3 loss in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series.
The 35-year-old said the decision to have knee surgery stemmed from a desire to play several more seasons in the NHL.
“I want to play three or four years more, and I don’t want to worry every game about my knee,” he said. “Because now my knee is like 200 percent stronger. … I know it’s a little bit not easy, but I want to play three or four more years. I feel like I can.”
Malkin is in the final season of an eight-year, $76 million contract ($9.5 million average annual value) he signed with Pittsburgh on June 13, 2013.
“I’m not thinking about my contract right now,” Malkin said. “I’m not thinking about money. I’m like a pretty rich guy. I’m not thinking about money. This is my point: I have had like a tough half of a year. I want back my level of game.
“We have a great group. We have great coaches. I miss hockey so much. I want to enjoy every game.”
The three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017) has played 940 games in 16 NHL seasons for Pittsburgh, second behind teammate Sidney Crosby (1,061). He’s third in Penguins history in points (1,104) and assists (680), and fourth in goals (424).
NHL.com independent correspondent Wes Crosby contributed to this report