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“The great news is that he’s got all kinds of time on his side right now,” Shero said. “Dr. (Micky) Collins expects a full recovery, it’s just a matter of time with this injury. I’m not concerned about it. With the season ending, it’s disappointing, but from Sid’s standpoint, the pressure and the question of when he’ll come back goes away, and now he can go back to healing and feeling good about himself.”

Crosby said he and Malkin related to each other as they rehabbed and helplessly watched their team in the playoffs. Malkin said Friday that he believed he could have returned had Pittsburgh reached the third round of the playoffs _ less than four months after being injured _ though team officials privately shake their head at such a prospect.

“It felt pretty strong,” Malkin said, “and I think I could have played this year.”

Malkin will continue to rehab in Pittsburgh for two more weeks before returning to Russia.

The Penguins also played the postseason without forward Matt Cooke. He was suspended for an elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers. Cooke, one of the team’s top penalty killers, was missed on a unit that went from the NHL’s best in the regular season, to a major postseason weakness.

Cooke said he has changed his game after twice being suspended. He took a week away from the team after the McDonagh hit, which ended up resulting in a 17-game suspension.

“I worked on some things I needed some help with,” he said. “I’ve been able to have a chance to work with some great people outside of hockey. And, I will continue to do so.

“Everyone knows the game has changed the last 15 years, and I want to come back and provide for this team and help this team win, and keep my word and do the things I said I would do.”

The Penguins have been vocal about their desire for more stringent rules against headshots, leading to speculation they might attempt to sever ties with Cooke, who has become a league-wide symbol for those types of hits.

“He’s a valuable player for us,” Shero said. “And, we look forward to having him back and as a productive player for our hockey team.”

Pittsburgh’s two goalies and seven defensemen are under contract for next season, but 12 forwards are free agents. Ten are unrestricted, including Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot, Arron Asham, Craig Adams, Mike Rupp and Alexei Kovalev. Tyler Kennedy is a restricted free agent.