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MORRISVILLE, NC — Sidney Crosby, like most of the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans, reacted immediately after he injured Evgeni Malkin with a shot Thursday night in Florida.

It just wasn’t what was expected.

“He said. “I’ll shoot harder next time,” Malkin said this afternoon after the Penguins’ practice at Invisalign Arena. “I’m lucky it was his shot, not like (Kris Letang) or (Jake Guentzel). We know Sid doesn’t shoot that hard.”

That was a pretty good shot he took on Crosby, but Malkin got a call from a teammate after the game. Brian Rust, like many players, has felt something similar to Malkin, but volunteered that there is a major difference between the two.

“A lot of the time I try to get in the way of it,” Rust said. “Not getting hit by accident.”

And Crosby, of course, was joking, probably because he, like most other players who have been hit in an unprotected area, realized that his hit probably caused more pain than damage.

Which proved to be the case.

Still, Malkin coupled his initial reaction to the knock with a simple statement. “It hurts.”

And make no mistake, it was a lot.

He said, however, that he was assured after the game that nothing was broken by Crosby’s hit.

“I got a little numb, my leg,” he said. “I was a little scared because it was the same knee (that had surgery), but after about 10 or 15 minutes I felt a lot better. My knee started to feel better. I saw a bruise. I put ice (on it) and after half an hour I felt like I could walk. It was much better.”

Crosby’s shot bounced off Malkin and into the net for what turned out to be the game-winning field goal against the Panthers.

“If I didn’t score, it would have been worse,” Malkin said.

While Crosby, who was at the top of the left circle when Malkin was stationed near the Florida net, was clearly not trying to hit Malkin’s hip, he appeared to be sending it in his direction by design.

“When he looked at me, I knew he was going to shoot my pants,” Malkin said. “Sometimes we do.”

The Penguins didn’t seem to do that during Saturday’s practice, which was much like any other for Malkin. And why does Mike Sullivan seem so confident Malkin will play against the Hurricanes?

“He’s a tough kid,” Sullivan said. “We’re lucky we dodged the bullet there. He feels good. He skated well in practice, so of course we’re excited about that.”

Indeed, Malkin moved around the ice without apparent difficulty during practice and said he believes he’ll be even closer to 100 percent when the Pittsburgh Penguins face the Hurricanes on Sunday.

“It’s a good thing we had a few days before the (Carolina) game,” he said. “Hopefully it feels a little better tomorrow, for sure.”

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