Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin nearing return from knee injury

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin could make his season debut on Tuesday night when the Penguins face the Anaheim Ducks.

Coach Mike Sullivan said Monday that he anticipates the four-time All-Star and 2012 Hart Trophy winner will be a “game-time” decision as Pittsburgh continues its West Coast swing.

The 35-year-old Malkin hasn’t played since undergoing right knee surgery in June. Malkin has been skating with his teammates for several weeks and was cleared to start taking contact recently. He was a full participant in practice on Monday and worked with the top power-play unit and centered the second line between Jeff Carter and Kasperi Kapanen.

“We try to check all the boxes as far as the preparation process,” Sullivan said. “He’s worked extremely hard to get to this point.”

Malkin had surgery in June, with the team saying he would miss “at least” the first two months of the season. Sullivan stressed Malkin is still in the middle of the team’s recovery time frame even with the season now three months old.

The Penguins have thrived even with Malkin out. Pittsburgh currently sits in fourth in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division and had a 10-game winning streak snapped over the weekend in Dallas.

Malkin’s presence, however, could give the NHL’s 22nd-ranked power-play a boost.

“I just think he adds a whole other dimension to it,” Sullivan said. “His play-making ability, his one-timer. He’s just such an elite offensive player, just the way he thinks the game and his ability to execute, I think it brings another dimension to our power play that makes us that much harder to defend against.”

Malkin is in the final season of an eight-year, $76-million contract and is coming off an injury-marred season in which he managed a career-low 28 points in 33 games.

U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team names Vanbiesbrouck GM, Quinn coach

USA Hockey named John Vanbiesbrouck as general manager and David Quinn as head coach of the 2022 Olympic men’s ice hockey team on Monday.

Vanbiesbrouck and Quinn replace Bill Guerin and Mike Sullivan after the NHL opted not to participate in the February tournament.

“John and David have been involved in our 2022 Olympic process and are well-positioned to transition into their new roles,” USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said in a statement. “With the NHL deciding not to participate in the Olympics, we’re fortunate to have the significant experience they bring in helping form and guide our men’s Olympic team.”

The 25-player Olympic men’s roster could be announced by mid-January.

USA Hockey makes controversial choice with Vanbiesboruck as Olympic GM

Following USA Hockey naming John Vanbiesbrouck as GM of the 2022 Olympic men’s ice hockey team, plenty of people noted that, in 2003, Vanbiesbrouck resigned from an OHL head coaching job after using a racial slur to refer to Trevor Daley.

“I used the ‘N’ word instead of calling him Trevor,” Vanbiesbrouck said in 2003. “I used it just not thinking.”

Daley temporarily quit the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds after learning that Vanbiesbrouck referred to him by using that slur. (Daley ended up winning two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, and played 1,058 regular-season NHL games.)

In 2018, USA Hockey hired Vanbiesbrouck as its assistant director of hockey operations. After being hired, Vanbiesbrouck addressed his comments toward Daley in 2018.

“I’m extremely sorry for it,” Vanbiesbrouck said in 2018. “It’s not who I am, it doesn’t define me as a person and I have no prejudices in me, and it will never happen again.”

The press release touts Vanbiesbrouck’s work with USA Hockey, noting how “the U.S. has enhanced its standing as a world power in the sport.”

This continues a strangely polarizing run of GM options for the 2022 U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey team. As you may remember, Stan Bowman resigned as the original GM as details of the Blackhawks sexual assault lawsuit emerged.

While Guerin didn’t resign from that GM post, he was also part of a lawsuit related to how the Penguins handled sexual assault allegations within the organization during his time as assistant GM. (The lawsuit was eventually settled.)

Quinn takes over for Sullivan as head coach

While Vanbiesbrouck is a controversial choice, it’s not surprising that USA Hockey tabbed David Quinn as head coach. The former Rangers head coach was initially named as part of Sullivan’s staff. He was an assistant for the men’s team at the World Championships in 2007, 2012, and 2016. He was also an assistant with the 2005 women’s national team, helping them to a pair of silver medals at the 1999 and 2000 Women’s World championship.

Chances are, Sullivan is delighted that David Quinn serves as his replacement. The two made a connection as teammates at Boston University.

No doubt, Quinn will have his work cut out for him without NHL players available for the 2022 Winter Olympics. USA Hockey noted that the team is “expected to be made up of Americans playing professionally in Europe and the U.S. (exclusive of the NHL), along with U.S. college players.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.