Without Crosby, Penguins turn to Malkin

Updated: October 3, 2011, 10:56 AM ET
By Craig Custance

He's close, but Sidney Crosby confirmed the expected. This past weekend, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward ruled out a return for opening night against the Vancouver Canucks. He'll continue to travel with the team as the Penguins start the season in western Canada, and he is expected to meet with the large contingent of Canadian media on practice days, another sign the worst is behind him. Crosby is resuming his duties as the biggest superstar in the game with only a clearance for contact standing in his way of a return to the lineup.

In the meantime, Crosby's absence in the early part of the season could benefit one teammate -- Evgeni Malkin. On the ice, the spotlight will be his.

With the Penguins' exhibition season completed, Malkin's return from a knee injury has gone from a sidebar in the Crosby recovery to the biggest reason Pittsburgh may thrive in the early part of this season while its captain remains sidelined.

"I feel good; my knee pretty good," Malkin said when we chatted Sunday night. "Of course, I'm nervous little bit before season. My shape is pretty good. I'm ready."