It's that time of year when local NHL players start reserving ice time at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo and skating in practice pick-up games, getting in shape for training camp. It's a bit like having NBA stars show up at your park and playing a little 4-on-4 in front of anyone who cares to come watch. Thursday's workout caught a little more media interest than usual because Russian star Evgeni Malkin, who AP says is "seen by many as the best hockey player in the world outside the N.H.L.," showed up to skate. He snuck away from his Russian Super League team in Helsinki to fly into L.A., where agent Pat Brisson is trying to cut a deal to get Malkin onto the Pittsburgh Penguins. Malkin's status has been caught up in a rights dispute between the NHL and Russian hockey officials. From the Calgary Sun:
"In Russia they're using the word defection," Brisson said. "He hasn't done anything wrong. He's not defecting. Basically, he said, 'It's my right, this is what I'm doing.' "
Malkin's stint on the ice with players such as Rob Blake, Glen Murray, Chris Drury and Anson Carter was a welcome relief for the 20-year-old, caught in a tug of war between his Russian Super League club, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Malkin was drafted by the Penguins second overall in 2004 and has yet to sign. Anyway, local fans are happy he's here.
Hockey notes: The Ducks traded Vitaly Vishnevski to Atlanta, and the Kings' former defenseman-enforcer and Fox Sports West analyst Marty McSorley has gone north to San Jose as TV color man for the Sharks.