PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin has understood for a while now that he will have to learn English to maximize his potential in the National Hockey League -- to say nothing of his life in the United States.
Malkin -- the No. 2 selection in the 2004 NHL Draft behind fellow Russian and 2005-06 NHL rookie of the year Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals -- might not understand his coaches, but they say his hockey skills will translate seamlessly to the North American ice.
One of 27 Penguins rookies taking part in a nearly two-hour practice Friday at Mellon Arena, Malkin signed a contract Tuesday with the Penguins after some conflict this summer involving his contract with Russia's Metallurg Magnitogorsk team, which he left while it was training in Finland last month.
With that turmoil behind him, Malkin said he is already feeling comfortable in his new hometown. He even watched the Steelers season-opening win Thursday night.
"It's obvious Pittsburgh is a great sports city," he said, speaking through an interpreter.
On Friday, Malkin, wearing No. 71, worked out with 2006 No. 2 overall draft selection Jordan Staal and 25 other rookies. Among those who skated, only defenseman Noah Welch, who appeared in five games last season, had NHL experience.
"He has so much skill," Welch said. "Obviously, I had heard a lot about him coming into camp, and in the (two hours) today, I saw a lot of great things. You can tell he thinks a little outside of the box and does things the average player can't."