In Sunday's optional Pittsburgh Penguins practice, Evgeni Malkin joined some of his teammates on the ice and took part in contact drills, his first since suffering a concussion after sliding into the end boards a little more than a week ago. Afterward he said he felt good but would need a few more practices.
He's not going to need any more practices as he passed the ImPACT test on Monday. Shortly after, the Penguins excitedly announced on Twitter that Malkin would play Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Malkin passed ImPACT test and will play tonight!!!!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 4, 2013
Yes, those are four exclamation points.
Before you think that the Penguins are bringing Malkin back a little too quickly, consider this: coach Dan Bylsma said the team followed all the protocols and that every precaution was taken. He added that Malkin has felt good for a full week.
The Penguins aren't a team that would rush a star back from a concussion; they know too well about the importance of easing guys back in after what they went through with Sidney Crosby. A week of feeling good, going through a practice just fine and passing all of the tests should be enough to make everybody comfortable that Malkin is good to go.
Last season's Hart Trophy winner hasn't been scoring goals at the same tremendous pace this season, but he has still been productive. He has four goals and 17 assists on the season in 18 games. He's been particularly effective on the power play, helping the Penguins to a 26.74 percent success rate, tops in the Eastern Conference.
It is kind of interesting and hopefully not ominous that Crosby appeared in his first game after a concussion against the Lightning and took a jarring hit from Bolts defenseman Viktor Hedman that further added to Crosby's woes. Not that the Penguins should worry about the same thing happening -- just an odd happenstance.