If he scores, the gifted rookie would be the first player with goals in his first six NHL games since the NHL’s inaugural season in 1917-18, when it was done by Joe Malone, Newsie Lalonde and Cy Denneny. He has already matched fellow Russian Dmitri Kvartalnov, who scored in his first five games for the Boston Bruins in 1992-93.
Playing left-wing on a line with 19-year-old superstar Sidney Crosby, Malkin has five goals and four assists in his first five games.
“He has great vision on the ice and he’ll always find you with passes,” Malkin said of Crosby through an interpreter on a conference call Monday. “It’s still a bit difficult because I’m not used to playing on the wing.
“It’s going to take a bit of time, but I’ll play better and better because it’s easy to play with players like Sidney Crosby.”
The 20-year-old said he met Crosby at the home of team owner and former star Mario Lemieux the day he arrived in Pittsburgh after his controversial departure from his Russian club Magnitogorsk.
It is the rangy Lemieux that the smooth six-foot-three Malkin is often compared to.
“That’s an honour,” Malkin said. “He was the best player and I have to prove a lot more what I can do on the ice.”
Malkin, drafted second overall behind Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin in 2004, joined a team that looks like a dynasty in the making with Crosby (picked No. 1 in 2005), 21-year-old goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (the No. 1 pick in 2003) and 18-year-old forward Jordan Staal.
The Penguins announced Monday that Staal, who has four goals, would not be returned to the junior Peterborough Petes, so the young talents will develop together.
Malkin said veteran defenceman Sergei Gonchar has helped him adjust to hockey and to life away from the rink in Pittsburgh.
He wasn’t sure what to expect when he crossed the Atlantic, but said he was confident he could keep up with the best players in the world after playing for Russia at the 2006 Olympics, where he had six points in seven games.
“I didn’t know what kind of game they played here when I came to North America,” he said. “Of course, it’s difficult and I have to make adjustments.
“It’s not easy, but I’m trying hard and I think I’m going in the right direction.”
After the stop in L.A., the Penguins play at San Jose on Saturday and at Anaheim on Monday.