Penguins star Malkin set to return for opening NHL playoff series

After being derailed by a slew injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins will finally get some reinforcement in the form of Evgeni Malkin.

Penguins centre Malkin is set to return from an upper-body injury in the team's opening playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, the NHL team announced.

Malkin, who last played on March 15, participated in full-contact practice on Tuesday alongside Bryan Rust and Phil Kessel.

The two-time Stanley Cup champion and three-time All-Star finished the regular season with 33 goals and 72 points in 62 games.

"I tried everything," Malkin said on Tuesday. "Slap shots, wrist shots, one-timers, all three shots I feel so much better.

"Three weeks is a long time. The first game I'll try to do my best. It's not easy. What can you do? Just play. I'll play the first shift and after just keep going. I'll play my game. Control the puck, take a couple hits and be ready to play."

In addition to Malkin, winger Carl Hagelin is also expected to return at some point during the series after missing the last 16 games with a lower-body injury.

The Penguins got a boost with defensemen Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta back in the line-up at the end of the regular season, but suffered a crucial loss last week when fellow defenseman Kris Letang was scheduled to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck and given a recovery timetable of four to six months.

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