THE NEW NEW KID, OCT. 2
Evgeni Malkin took to Pittsburgh was long and arduous. Bound to a Russian team by a contract his agent said Malkin signed under duress, the 20-year-old center from the steel town of Magnitogorsk slipped away from his team at an airport in Finland in August and, after hiding out for three days, made his way to the U.S. embassy. He flew to Pittsburgh, where he joined the Penguins, who had drafted him second overall in 2004. Last week the Russian club, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Penguins and the NHL in New York City to get him back. (The team and league haven't commented on the suit, which also asks for unspecified damages.)
Malkin (above) missed the first four games of the season with a shoulder injury, but when he finally took the ice, all the hassle seemed worth it. He scored a goal in each of his first three games, the first NHL player to do so in 11 years. (The Penguins won two of those three and sit second in the Atlantic Division.) After the third goal, on a wrist shot in a 5--3 win over Columbus last Saturday, he pointed to his parents and brother sitting in the crowd. Following the game, Malkin was asked if he thought he would score in every game he played. "I don't think that's going to happen," he said through an interpreter. "But I'm going to try very hard every game and keep working hard."
LOU CAPOZZOLA (MALKIN)