Malkin draws praise as he reaches his 1,000th game

CRANBERRY, PennsylvaniaEvgeny Malkin rarely speaks in public.

The Pittsburgh Penguins center has a wild personality and often cracks jokes during practices. But once off the ice, Malkin likes to keep a low profile.

For that reason, it seemed almost fitting for his teammates to mark the achievement on his behalf, as Malkin played his 1,000th NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday.

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“It’s a remarkable accomplishment,” said Sidney Crosby. You also have to consider all that he has been through. A lot of guys might have stopped playing if they had been through all the hardships he went through. I think that’s an accomplishment in itself, but even more so when you consider what it took him to get there. »

The second overall pick in the 2004 draft, Malkin became the second player after Crosby to reach 1,000 games with Pittsburgh. The defender Kris Letangwho has played 958 games, could hit the 1,000 mark later this season.

The three surpassed Mario Lemieux, the previous record holder with 915 games in a Penguins uniform.

“‘Geno’ is a real competitor,” said coach Mike Sullivan. I think his competitive spirit sometimes goes under the radar. But he must be considered a generational talent. He’s been such a big part of our Stanley Cup wins since I’ve been here.

“The fact that he’s approaching this plateau is just proof of his dedication to hockey, his passion for the sport, his willingness to put in the necessary effort. You have to recognize his talent. He is an elite player. »

After extending his streak with at least one point to six with an assist in a 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, Malkin is third in Penguins history with 1,165 points, 451 goals and 714 assists. Lemieux (1723; 690, 1033) and Crosby (1432; 526, 906) are ahead of him in all three categories.

Malkin lifted the Stanley Cup three times (2009, 2016 and 2017), winning the Conn-Smythe Trophy in 2009. He won the Hart Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player to his team, in 2012 and the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer in 2009 and 2012.

“I have always been one of his great admirers, admitted the striker Rickard Rakell. When I think of a player who has fun playing, I think of him. He always seems to want to get the better of the guy in front of him. He’s emotional, he does whatever it takes. »

This emotionality can be intimidating. Talk to the attacker Jake Guentzel.

“I was scared,” Guentzel said of his first time with Malkin as a rookie in 2017. “My first game, I was on a line with him and Phil [Kessel]. I was super nervous. You realize how much of a player he is. »

Malkin continues to produce, even at 36. He is second in Pittsburgh with 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 18 games – behind Crosby (23 points – nine goals, 14 assists).

But reaching the 1000 game plateau was far from done for the Russian. In February 2011, he underwent major surgery on his right knee. Last season, he started his season on January 11 after having surgery on that same knee on June 4.

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And that mark, there was no guarantee that it would be crossed with the Penguins. Malkin could have become an unrestricted free agent last summer, but he finally agreed to a new four-year contract on July 13.

It’s been 17 seasons since Crosby and Malkin have sat in the same locker room, and Crosby is thrilled that that dynamic isn’t about to end.

“It means a lot to me. We’re both very competitive,” Crosby said. We came to the League with high expectations, we understood our responsibility at a young age. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to play with him all these years and to have shared so many things with him. […]

“So when I think about the number of games he’s played and what he’s been through, it’s really impressive. Playing the way he does after having had two anterior cruciate ligament surgeries, I don’t think many players would be able to do that. »

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Malkin draws praise as he reaches his 1,000th game

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