Pittsburgh Penguins wing Evgeni Malkin will play for his original Russian team on Thursday. A standing room only crowd of 8,000 at Arena Mettalurg are expected to watch Metallurg Magnitogorsk play Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
For Magnitogorsk fans, this is equivalent to when Mario Lemiuex returned to the Penguins in 2001. However, this return has the context of one a messy team-player divorce. Its a topic that Malkin rarely talks about.
In 2006, Malkin was basically coerced into re-signing with Magnitogorsk, who were trying to prevent him from signing with the Penguins in the NHL. Club officials actually stayed at his parents house until 3 a.m., leaving only when Malkin signed the extension.
Malkin's agent J.P. Berry discovered a loophole in the Russian work code that could get him out of his contract. During a training trip in Finland, with the help of a Finnish security company, Malkin was able to separate himself from his team and wait for a visa at the U.S. Embassy. That enabled him to get to America and start his career with the Penguins.
The bad blood between Malkin and Magnitogorsk waned after his rookie season.