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Malkin will be making NHL debut Wednesday



Published: Tue, October 17, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The game against the New Jersey Devils will be at Mellon Arena.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Evgeni Malkin wants to treat Wednesday's game like the countless others he has played in his life, but there is one undeniable difference: The 20-year-old Russian phenom will be making his NHL debut.

"I'm a little bit nervous before every game, but I'm not going to be too much more nervous before the first one," the Pittsburgh Penguins center said through a translator after practice Monday. "But we will see how it goes."

Malkin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, will make the NHL season's most highly anticipated rookie debut for the Penguins when they host the New Jersey Devils Wednesday at Mellon Arena.

His recovery

Regarded as the world's best player outside the NHL last season, Malkin dislocated his shoulder during an exhibition game Sept. 20 in Moncton, New Brunswick, when he and teammate John LeClair collided. He returned to practice Friday with a shoulder support and has been cleared to play.

"He worked really hard to come back pretty quickly," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "We're more than excited to see him back in the lineup."

In 2005-06, Malkin had 47 points in 46 games for Magnitogorsk in the Russian Super League and six points in seven games for Russia at the Olympics.

He left the Magnitogorsk team when it arrived for training camp in Finland in August and made his way secretly to the United States, where he signed with the Penguins.

He is an excellent passer and playmaker and made several standout plays in the exhibition game before getting hurt.

"He's going to help us a lot," said center Sidney Crosby, the 2005 No. 1 overall NHL draft choice who had 102 points as an 18-year-old rookie last season. "We're just starting to get used to each other out there.

The tandem

"I think I'll start with him on the power play. It should be fun. Hopefully we'll be ready for that."

Initially, the Penguins feared the injury would require surgery or keep Malkin out longer, but Malkin proved a quick healer.

"I feel good. My shoulder feels good," Malkin said. "Everything is going well."

Malkin practiced on a line with Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi -- the same players he had been working out with in training camp before the injury.

Recchi is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and has 484 NHL goals; Malone has scored 22 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons.

"We've had pretty good chemistry in practices and scrimmages," Recchi said. "Hopefully we can help him out, being his first real game. It's going to be exciting to see him, but [Malone] and I have to be on top of our games to help him out."

Malone sees it a bit differently. Though he has 162 NHL games under his belt, Malone said Malkin's talent is so immense that Malkin will raise the level of his game rather than the other way around.

Line struggles

The No. 2 line, on which Recchi and Malone were fixtures, has struggled and not created much offense through the season's first four games. Recchi has only two assists and Malone has no points.

"If anything, players like him and Sid, you try to learn from them," Malone said. "Obviously, they know the game, so you try to learn by watching those guys. He makes things easier for his wingers, and that makes for an easier job for myself and [Recchi]. As long as we do our part to help out, he'll be OK."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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