For the second consecutive night in the NHL, two teams welcomed back their respective Russian stars from injury for an immediate impact. Sunday night saw the return of Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins star forward returned after a nine game absence with a leg injury. By watching the game you would’ve never known the 27-year-old center missed any action based on how he slid back into the action notching two goals and an assist to help his team see of Winnipeg.
With his team trailing 2-0, Malkin cut the lead in half by scoring his 10th goal of the year, beating Al Montoya with a wrist shot from the point after a Winnipeg turn over. With his team trailing 5-4 in the third period, Malkin would jump on a juicy rebound to square things at 5. The Penguins would score the winner minutes later, capping off a wild 6-5 victory to equal their longest win streak at home.
On Monday night in New York, Columbus welcomed back reining Vezina winner between the pipes as they visited the Rangers. After missing over a month following a groin injury, the 25-year-old made 40 saves on 43 shots in a 4-3 shootout win. Despite surrendering a two-goal cushion late in the third, Bob looked solid against a Rangers team that scored seven goals against two nights before. He was perfect in the shootout, robbing ex-teammate Rick Nash in the process.
The stars’ return comes right before the Russian National Team announces their roster for Sochi next month and has Russian officials and fans excited that their beloved players have returned so strong in time to chase that illusive Olympic gold.