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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Penguins hatch double superstars

Alan Robinson Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – His stick handling is better than the Pittsburgh Penguins expected, so is his ability to shed defenders and gain open ice to set up plays. They haven’t seen anything like good-as-advertised young Russian Evgeni Malkin since …

Since, well, when Sidney Crosby arrived last year.

Offensive talents such as the 19-year-old Crosby and 20-year-old Malkin generally come along only every decade or so, yet the Penguins have been bad enough long enough to have drafted two of them in three years.

To retired star and team owner Mario Lemieux’s thinking, it means a streak of four consecutive last-place finishes by the once-good club should end soon.

As soon, of course, as Malkin gets over the dislocated shoulder that occurred barely minutes into his NHL exhibition debut Sept. 20 and may sideline him for up to a month. The Penguins are counting the minutes until he returns, and are certain he will be worth the wait.

Their initial look at him lasted barely a period, but it was long enough to tell them he is as good as they have expected.

Malkin brought some intrigue this summer when the Olympic star sneaked away from his Russian pro team upon its arrival in Helsinki for training camp, disappeared for a few days, then reappeared in Los Angeles with his agents.

It was reminiscent of the clandestine maneuvers former Soviet stars Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny once used to evade their teams and reach the NHL – with Mogilny sneaking out of Germany in the trunk of a car. Malkin’s camouflaged defection to the NHL illustrates his desire to play in North America, and not in another year or two.

“To tell the truth, it was always my dream to come here to play despite everything that was going on,” said Malkin, the leading scorer for his Russian Super League Metallurg Magnitogorsk team a season ago at age 19. “I was always open about my desire to come to North America and be part of the best here.”

To Crosby, whose NHL debut last season was better than expected as he scored 102 points as an 18-year-old, it told him all he needs to know about his new teammate.

“It’s a pretty amazing story,” Crosby said. “He showed a lot of guts to go through that and come over here. … For anyone who has a dream to play and the passion to play, this is the league you want to be in.”

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