PITTSBURGH — The Penguins’ dynamic 1-2 punch of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are as close to 100 percent healthy as they have been all season.
Crosby, the captain, missed 12 of 48 regular-season games with a fractured jaw, including Pittsburgh’s 3-2 win over the Bruins April 20. He also sat out Game 1 of the opening playoff series against the Islanders.
Malkin missed 17 regular-season games, including all three Pittsburgh wins over the Bruins, because of a concussion and an aching right shoulder that could require surgery in the offseason.
Both star centers, though, have bounced back nicely in the playoffs.
Malkin is tied for the team lead with 16 points and his 12 assists are tied for second in the NHL. He and Crosby are tied for the team lead with 46 shots entering Game 1 of Eastern Conference finals against the Bruins on Saturday.
“I didn’t play this year against Boston, but I have played before against Boston and I know how to play against them,” said Malkin, who has 11 goals and 14 assists in 21 career games against the Bruins. “A physical team, very fast, always tough game.
“We beat them three times this year . . . and I hope my team wins again.”
Crosby is tied for the team lead with seven goals and third with 15 points. He has five multi-point games. In 22 career games against the Bruins he has nine goals and 23 assists.
Crosby’s first NHL goal came Oct. 8, 2005, on a power play against the Bruins at Mellon Arena.
“I kept that [puck],” he said. “I think everyone’s got their first.”
On Dec. 20, 2007, Crosby was involved in his first NHL fight, against the Bruins’ Andrew Ference, a former Penguin, in Boston.
Additionally, the Penguins beat the Bruins in the conference finals in both 1991 and ’92 en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.
“We definitely have some history with them,” Crosby said.
Malkin, who managed just 33 points in the regular season after winning the NHL scoring title and Hart Trophy last season with 109 points, was asked Friday after practice how much he expects to be blanketed by 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara in the series.
“I hope not a lot,” Malkin said. “He’s the best defenseman right now. He’s big, he’s strong.”
Malkin joked that if he’s lucky, Chara will be focused on shutting down Crosby and not him.
Crosby, who finished tied for third in the NHL with 56 points during the regular season, laughed at Malkin’s suggestion.
“I’m not surprised he’s hoping that,” Crosby said. “I am sure [Chara] will get both of us. He plays a lot of minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised to kind of see him play both of us at different points, depending on the situation.”
Crosby, shadowed by Chara, had one goal against the Bruins during the regular season. He believes the key for the Penguins is to limit Chara’s chances at both ends of the ice.
But Crosby realizes that is easier said than done.
“You might have have a split-second more if you’re not against Chara,” Crosby said. “But, at this point, I think anyone you draw is going to be a good battle.”
Malkin said Chara’s presence will force him to be more creative.
“Guess I’ll just use my speed, shoot more, play my game and move [the] puck,” he said.
Malkin shrugged when asked if it would be disappointing for the Penguins not to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009.
“We just try not to think about that,” he said. “We know we can beat the best teams this year and we just stay positive. Not much thinking about losing.”
Despite all their firepower, the Penguins added four players at the trade deadline to improve their depth. They were Flames captain and future Hall of Fame winger Jarome Iginla, Stars captain Brenden Morrow, Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray, and Hurricanes winger Jussi Jokinen.
“Each one of the players we got at the deadline brings that leadership quality, but they’ve brought it in a different way than they had with their former team,” general manager Ray Shero said.
“It’s been a good fit. Good people joining good people. That combination works out well off the ice. On the ice, they’ve all fit the role that we hoped they would. They’ve all done good jobs for us.
“I think it’s our deepest team. In ’09 we won a Stanley Cup championship, so that is our best team right now.”