It took a little bit longer than some first thought or hoped, but Pittsburgh Penguins star forward Evgeni Malkin is back in the lineup just in time for postseason preparations.
The Penguins confirmed that Malkin will return from his lingering lower-body injury for Monday's intrastate showdown with the Philadelphia Flyers. Malkin, 34, missed 23 consecutive games due to what is believed to be a right knee issue that he suffered playing against the Boston Bruins on March 16 but resumed full-contact practice activities last week. Without him, Pittsburgh tallied a 16-5-2 record, climbed to first place in the NHL East Division standings and clinched a playoff berth.
The Penguins enter Monday's action two points ahead of the Washington Capitals and four points ahead of the New York Islanders. All three clubs have already clinched spots in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Boston Bruins sit eight points ahead of the New York Rangers in the race for the division's final postseason berth. Philadelphia, meanwhile, was eliminated last week.
Malkin recorded eight goals and 16 assists across 29 contests this season before the setback.