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Old faces, new purpose as Malkin, Letang return to Pens

CRANBERRY, Pa. (AP) — The angst was real. For Evgeni Malkin. And Sidney Crosby. And Kris Letang. And just about everyone else associated with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The trio that’s served as the franchise’s bedrock for the better part of two decades understood they were heading into a summer of uncertainty, a time when the business of professional hockey might get in the way of their singular bond.

Yet all three kept the faith, confident that sanity and stability would prevail.

The financial reward came over the summer as Letang and Malkin agreed to long-term deals that could keep them in Pittsburgh for the remainder of their careers.

The physical reward came Thursday when all three took the ice as the Penguins opened a training camp that looked an awful lot like the 16 before it: with three generational talents serving as the focal point of a team that insists its Stanley Cup window remains open.

The drama of a potentially turbulent summer — particularly when it came to Malkin’s status — has faded. Almost everyone from a group that feels it was a lucky bounce or two away from a deep playoff run is back, most notably the 36-year-old Malkin, who signed a four-year deal just hours before he was set to enter free agency for the first time.

Asked if he feared a potential breakup, the Russian star shook his head.

“No, I believe I stay here forever,” he said from his familiar stall inside the team’s training facility, the stall that remains just a handful of spaces down from Crosby’s and maybe 25 feet away from Letang’s.

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