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Penguins waiting on more production from 'Geno'

Tuesday, 11.30.2010 / 3:20 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Penguins waiting on more production from 'Geno'
The Penguins are flying high right now but could get an even bigger boost if Evgeni Malkin reaches the next level of his game.
With so many positive streaks going on in Pittsburgh right now, Evgeni Malkin's lack of offense hasn't been an issue. The Penguins have won seven in a row and are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games despite not getting much off the stick of their Russian superstar since his hat trick in Atlanta on Nov. 13.

But as coach Dan Bylsma pointed out prior to the Penguins' 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden on Monday, "Geno" is doing plenty to help the team's cause over this last stretch despite scoring only 1 goal and dishing out 5 assists in the eight games since he lit up the Thrashers in a 4-2 Penguins victory.

"I think we'd all like to see him put up bigger numbers and have the type of season he had two seasons ago, but I see him doing a lot of things better in his game this year than last year," Bylsma said. "The consistency in which he works on the defensive side of the puck is much better. He's a guy we count on in the defensive zone to play against other teams' good players right now as a centerman."

Bylsma has tried to get Malkin (8 goals, 14 assists) going in the offensive end by putting him on the right wing of red-hot Sidney Crosby, who has 26 points in the last 13 games. It hasn't jump-started Malkin the way the coach has hoped, but part of that is on Malkin, who needs to be more assertive.

"Two areas of the game that we keep talking about to Geno is attacking the net and shooting the puck," Bylsma said. "I think his best games you see him track back and strip people of pucks in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone. He's a hound on the puck and makes a turnover and then you see him come back and attack with speed. He's a dangerous, dangerous player when he has that mentality."

Malkin appeared to be doing some of that Monday. He was a factor in the offensive zone with six shots on goal. He has 21 over the last four games, but he's scored on just one of them.

If he's frustrated he's certainly not letting on. Malkin on Monday morning jokingly worked his way into the center of the media scrum surrounding Bylsma and held out his hand as if he was holding a recorder. Bylsma laughed and Malkin cracked up as he walked away, clearly showing that his lack of offensive production is not getting to him.

It doesn't appear to be bothering Bylsma or the Penguins, either.

"There is a lot of good in his game and he has to keep getting better and more focused on shooting the puck and attacking the net, playing in those areas, because he's a dominant player when he does," Bylsma said. "He's gotten a lot of those opportunities, but there's still a level he can get to in that area of the game. Still, there is a lot he's adding to our team in helping our team play well and sometimes that's overshadowed."

Now let's go around the conference to check on all the news and notes. The teams are listed in order of where they stand after Monday's action:

1.
 Washington Capitals (17-6-2, 36 points)

The Capitals have regained their swagger and now they might have acquired a missing piece. Washington picked up shot-blocking defenseman Scott Hannan from Colorado on Tuesday in exchange for Tomas Fleischmann, who had only 10 points in 23 games this season after scoring a career-high 51 points in 69 games last season. Hannan, a blueliner with some snarl, would have led the Capitals in blocked shots each of the last four seasons.


2.
 Philadelphia Flyers (15-6-4, 34 points)

A pair of shootout losses to teams that currently are out of the playoff picture (Calgary, New Jersey) has cooled the previously red-hot Flyers. More alarming than the shootout losses to the Flames and Devils, however, is how they lost. The Flyers scored only three goals over the two games after totaling 20 in their previous four games. The power play has scored only two goals in its last 34 chances. Daniel Carcillo (sprained knee) practiced Monday, but is unlikely to play Wednesday against Boston.


3.
 Montreal Canadiens (15-8-1, 31 points)

The Canadiens would like to buck their current win-one/lose-one trend when they host the Oilers on Wednesday. They haven't won back-to-back games since winning three straight from Nov. 9-13. They're 3-3 over their last six games, but they're coming off a 3-1 win against Buffalo on Saturday. Habs captain Brian Gionta was in on all three goals Saturday, scoring two of them. He had only 1 point in the previous five games.


4.
 Pittsburgh Penguins (16-8-2, 34 points)

The Penguins are the hottest team in the NHL right now with wins in seven-straight games and a 9-0-1 record in their last 10. Sidney Crosby has the hottest stick in the League right now with points in 13 straight games; he has 12 goals and 14 assists in that stretch. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is playing tremendously well, with wins in six straight games. He's given up only four goals over his last four starts and just nine goals in his six-game winning streak. Pittsburgh's penalty killing has been great, with 32 straight kills.


5.
 Tampa Bay Lightning (13-8-3, 29 points)

Just like the Flyers, the Lightning have cooled since a five-game win streak. They lost 6-0 to Washington and then 4-3 in a shootout to Florida over the weekend. Steven Stamkos has gone two straight games without a goal for only the second time this season. They're in Toronto on Tuesday and Boston on Thursday. It's possible Simon Gagne could play by the end of the week. He's missed 18 straight games with a neck strain.


6.
 New York Rangers (14-11-1, 29 points)

They ran into the red-hot Penguins on Monday and got burned because of untimely gaffes and a power play that was no match for the Pens' top penalty-killing unit in the League. But that loss didn't take away from a positive month for the Rangers, who went 9-7 through a brutal 16-game grind in November. They were 6-2-0 in back-to-back sets and 4-0 in the second game of back-to-backs.


7.
 Atlanta Thrashers (12-9-3, 25 points)

These pesky Thrashers are turning into quite a story. They've won five in a row and goalie Ondrej Pavelec and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien were, respectively, the first and second stars in the NHL last week. Pavelec has allowed only three goals in this five-game win streak (he's started all five games) and has lowered his goals-against average to 1.62. Byfuglien has put himself in the Norris Trophy race with 4 goals and 5 assists in the last five games. He has 25 points this season to lead all NHL defensemen.


8.
 Boston Bruins (12-8-2, 26 points)

Marc Savard is close to rejoining the team and GM Peter Chiarelli is in the process of making some moves to clear salary-cap space for him and Marco Sturm, who also is nearing a return. Chiarelli traded defenseman Matt Hunwick and his reported $1.45 million salary-cap hit to Colorado on Monday in exchange for defense prospect Colby Cohen. That reportedly cleared enough space for Savard's return, but now Chiarelli has to make room under the cap for Sturm. He's working the phones.


9.
 Carolina Hurricanes (10-11-3, 23 points)

Hurricanes captain Eric Staal had a great November, with 9 goals and 12 assists in 14 games, but the team basically just hovered. Carolina's 4-1 loss to Dallas on Monday gave it a 5-6-3 record for the month. The Hurricanes have lost two in a row, including in a shootout at Washington this past Sunday. Carolina's issues have been at home, where it has won only five of 11 games this season and has lost three straight and four of five.


10.
 Ottawa Senators (11-13-1, 23 points)

The Senators got burned by their old goalie Monday as Martin Gerber made 22 saves to backstop the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-1 win at Scotiabank Place. Ottawa has lost three of its last four games, pulling out only a 3-0 win against the rival Maple Leafs on Saturday. The Senators simply are not scoring enough. They have only 17 goals over their last 10 games, during which they're 3-7.


11.
 Buffalo Sabres (9-13-3, 21 points)

The Sabres have lost three of four and don't get a chance to get back at it until Friday, when they host Columbus. That could be good and bad. You want to get after it quickly after a loss, which the Sabres did have Saturday in Montreal, but they also may need some time to regroup and get some practice time in. Goal scoring has been a concern. They only have five in the last four games despite getting 124 shots on goal. They outshot Montreal 36-20 in the 3-1 loss this past Saturday.


12.
 Florida Panthers (10-12-0, 20 points)

Consistent offense seems to be holding the Panthers back. They scored three and beat the Lightning in a shootout Saturday, but that's after scoring only three goals total over their previous three games. They've allowed only 57 goals, which is tied for seventh in the League, but they've scored as many and that's tied for 28th in the NHL.


13.
 Toronto Maple Leafs (8-11-3, 19 points)

After winning three of four the Leafs have dropped two straight and have scored only one goal in the process. Defensively they haven't been bad, but they've gone into an offensive drought. Rookie center Nazem Kadri reportedly has been promoted to the No. 1 line as coach Ron Wilson hopes his young legs can ignite the offense. He likely will start Tuesday's game against Tampa Bay between Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur. Jean-Sebastien Giguere practiced Monday for the first time since injuring his groin Nov. 16.


14.
 New Jersey Devils (8-14-2, 18 points)

Talk about a team that desperately needed a pick-me-up win over the weekend. The Devils had a stinker on Long Island on Friday and the 2-0 loss to the Islanders, losers of 14 straight prior to the game, snapped a promising two-game win streak. However, the Devils came back the next day and won in a shootout against Philadelphia, 2-1. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner hopes to play Thursday against Montreal. He hasn't played since Nov. 10.


15.
 New York Islanders (5-12-5, 15 points)

Their 2-0 win Friday against the Devils snapped a 14-game winless streak and the Isles will look to keep it going later this week with a home-and-home against the rival Rangers. Rick DiPietro made 29 saves in the win against the Devils for his first shutout of the season. Defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Jack Hillen are close to returning to the lineup, while fellow blueliner Mike Mottau still is recovering from his eye injury.


Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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