CRANBERRY, Pa. — Evgeni Malkin said he has at least one more chapter to write with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 34-year-old center, in his estimation, probably has two or three seasons left to play with center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang. That core has won the Stanley Cup three times in Pittsburgh (2009, 2016, 2017) and is aiming to win it once more with each of the three reaching the later stages of his NHL career; Crosby and Letang are each 33.
If the Penguins do win another championship, Malkin will have accomplished his current goal.
“I’d be the first Russian to win four Cups,” Malkin said Tuesday. “That is my motivation right now.”
Malkin’s three championships are tied with Sergei Fedorov and Igor Larionov for the most among Russia-born players in NHL history.
The 15th season of Malkin’s NHL career will open with the Penguins facing the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday (5:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1). There might not be many more opportunities for him to pass Fedorov and Larionov.
Malkin realizes that. He also knows Pittsburgh has let two chances slip the past two postseasons, failing to advance past its opening series each time and losing seven of its past eight Stanley Cup Playoff games.
The Penguins’ leadership group of Malkin, Crosby and Letang doesn’t want that to become the norm.
“We talk a lot together. We’re still hungry,” Malkin said. “Again, we still want like one more Cup, for sure. I feel like that every year. We’re older and older every year. We don’t know how many years we’ll play together, like two or three. Again, we’re excited to be together again this year. I hope I play [with] no injuries.
“I feel great. Everybody’s together. Great chance to have the team follow us and be a leader in this group.”
As for Malkin’s game, it hasn’t taken a noticeable dip. After a relatively disappointing 2018-19 season, when he scored 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 68 games, Malkin bounced back with 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists) in 55 games while Pittsburgh dealt with several injuries last season.
Malkin said it will be difficult to for him to gauge that upward momentum until the season begins.
“Practice is fun. I score a couple goals in practice, for sure,” he said. “Huge game tomorrow. Need a little bit of confidence. Win a couple games, and I think we’re fine. I have great experience. I’ve played a long time in this league. My body is ready right now.”
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said 2019-20 showed how much Malkin has matured, as a player and a person, in recent seasons, and how much more he has left to give.
“He’s built a certain legacy here in his time,” Sullivan said. “He’s a generational talent that has been one of the very best of his age group over the last decade-plus. And he’s hungry for more. That’s what I see. Not just him, but our whole core. Sid, [Malkin] and [Letang]. These guys, they’re hungry for more.
“They know that there’s an opportunity, and they want to seize that moment. I think it’s that motivation and that determination to want to be the best that has allowed them to build the legacy that they have to this point.”