While no one with a vested interest seems ready to guarantee that Evgeni Malkin will be in the NHL next season, no one has come up with any compelling evidence that he won't, either.
And comments Malkin made while speaking with a Russian reporter shortly before the Turin Olympics in Italy -- an interview posted recently on the Russian Hockey Digest Web site -- bolster the belief that he'll be with the Penguins this fall. Witness his thoughts on:
Speaking English: "I'm starting to learn English because I understand that it's very important. I can't go to Pittsburgh without being able to communicate, but I have very little time to practice English. I'm trying, though."
Countryman Alexander Ovechkin's success in Washington: "I just hope that when I go to America myself, that I will be able to do just as well as him."
The Penguins' desire to have him here for 2006-07: "I'm also hoping for that. I have two years left on my contract with Metallurg [Magnitogorsk, his Russian Super League club], but I want to try my hand at the NHL."
Mario Lemieux's retirement: "It's unfortunate that I won't be able to play with him on the same team, but I hope that I will at least get to meet him when I come to Pittsburgh's training camp."