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Malkin has filled the void for ailing Penguins

Sunday, 01.22.2012 / 10:47 AM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Malkin has filled the void for ailing Penguins
For a team littered with injuries, Evgeni Malkin has stepped up to revive the slumping Penguins.
With Sidney Crosby and now Jordan Staal out with injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins have needed Evgeni Malkin to step up.

He's done that … and more.

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 55
SOG: 190 | +/-: 9
As we approach the All-Star break, no player in the NHL has been putting the puck in the net at a faster clip than Malkin. His game-tying goal against Montreal on Friday night was his seventh in four games during a six-day span and his ninth in Pittsburgh's last five games , all Penguin victories, the last of which came when he scored the only goal of the shootout to beat the Canadiens.

Despite missing seven early-season games due to injuries, Malkin has grabbed the League scoring lead with 55 points in just 40 games. Short of selling popcorn at intermission, there's not much more the Penguins can ask of him.

Five up -- Five players who may be sorry to see the All-Star break arrive:


John Tavares -- The first player taken in the 2009 NHL Draft has kicked his game to a whole new level, and he's taking the New York Islanders with him. Tavares had both of New York's goals in Saturday's 2-1 OT win against Carolina, extending his points streak to 12 games, the longest in the NHL this season.

Jaroslav Halak -- He's getting plenty of help from his teammates, but Halak is showing St. Louis fans why the Blues were so eager to acquire him from Montreal in the summer of 2010. Halak had back-to-back shutouts last week and was 3-0-0 while allowing just two goals. He's 11-0-3 since his last regulation loss more than two months ago.

Jimmy Howard -- Howard is the type of goaltender who's easy to take for granted -- he plays almost every game and rarely has an off night. He went 3-0-0 last week with a shutout, allowing just four goals, and has won his last five starts.

Pekka Rinne -- One reason that it's tough to beat the Nashville Predators these days is that Rinne may be playing the best hockey of his career. He won all three starts last week, allowing only three goals and shutting out Columbus, and is 7-0-0 with just 10 goals allowed in his last seven starts.

Peter Mueller -- Mueller's career has been derailed by concussions that have kept him out of the lineup for most of the past two season. He made it back into the lineup 10 days ago and has three goals and an assist in Colorado's last two games, including the game-winning tally in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Five down — Five players who are struggling as we reach the break:

Ryan Miller -- Miller looks nothing like the goaltender who took home the Vezina Trophy in June 2010. He allowed nine goals in just 74 minutes last week and has lost four of his last five starts. Miller is 11-14-2, and his 3.16 goals-against average and .897 save percentage are among the worst in the NHL for starting goaltenders.

Michael Del Zotto
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 23
SOG: 64 | +/-: 20
Michael Del Zotto -- The Rangers' third-year defenseman is still enjoying the best season of his young NHL career, but he's cooled off in the past couple of weeks. He's gone without a point in eight games and is minus-5 during that span, dropping him to (a still impressive) plus-20 for the season.

Tomas Fleischmann -- The veteran forward's offensive game is still stuck on 2011. He's played in all eight of Florida's games in the new year, hasn't had a point in any of them and is minus-9.

Brian Rolston -- The Islanders are one of the NHL's most top-heavy teams when it comes to scoring, and players like Rolston are a big reason why. Rolston hasn't generated a point in the Isles' last 11 games and is minus-6 during that span.

Clarke MacArthur -- After a career year (21 goals, 62 points) in 2010-11, MacArthur's offense has dropped off. He's gone without a point in Toronto's last seven games, allowing opponents to concentrate on the one-two punch of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.

Injuries, news and notes -- In a monument to persistence, 31-year-old Mark Bell earned a call up from the Anaheim Ducks last week after getting 13 points in 33 games with AHL Syracuse. Bell dressed and played Saturday; it was his first NHL game since 2007-08, when he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Out -- Chicago captain Jonathan Toews left Saturday's game in the second period, didn't return and is listed as day-to-day. He was slashed on the left hand Friday night. … Philadelphia's victory at New Jersey on Saturday was a costly one in terms of personnel. Center Danny Briere (concussion) and forwards Jaromir Jagr (lower body) and Zak Rinaldo (upper body) all left the game with injuries. … Winnipeg's Evander Kane sat out Saturday with a concussion, though the Jets said they don't know how he was injured. … Jamie Benn, Dallas' top scorer, missed the week after undergoing an appendectomy on Jan. 15. The Stars aren't sure if he'll be able to take part in All-Star Weekend; if not, he should be back after the break. … Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter missed all four of the Preds' games last week with an upper-body injury. … Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu went down with an upper-body injury on Monday and is likely to miss at least a couple more weeks. … Calgary's top goal-scorer, Curtis Glencross, injured his knee Tuesday night and was placed on IR. … Pittsburgh forward Arron Asham is out with a concussion.

Adam Henrique
Center - NJD
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 34
SOG: 84 | +/-: 7
Returning -- Florida got some reinforcements on Friday when Scottie Upshall and Jack Skille returned. Upshall missed more than two months with an abdominal injury, while Skille hadn't played since Dec. 16 due to shoulder problems. … Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang (concussion/broken nose) returned Thursday after missing 21 games … Dallas reactivated defenseman Philip Larsen (concussion) after he missed eight games. … San Jose activated defenseman Colin White (lower body) on Thursday after missing more than three weeks. … St. Louis defenseman Kris Russell was back in the lineup Thursday after a groin injury cost him nine games. … Nashville activated forward Jerred Smithson (lower body) on Thursday. … Winnipeg's top scorer, Blake Wheeler, returned Thursday after missing two games with a neck injury. Defenseman Zach Bogosian returned Saturday after missing five games with a lower-body injury. … New Jersey center Adam Henrique missed two games with a groin injury before returning Thursday. … Calgary had Brendan Morrison back in the lineup Saturday after he missed six games with an upper-body injury.

Still out -- Sidney Crosby's efforts to return from concussion-like symptoms have led him to California. He arrived there on Friday to see Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialist. Crosby hasn't played since Dec. 5. … Any hopes the Flyers had that captain Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) might return this season apparently have disappeared. GM Paul Holmgren said Thursday that Pronger isn't expected to play at all in 2011-12, even if Philadelphia goes deep into the playoffs. … San Jose put forward Ryane Clowe on IR with facial injuries sustained on Jan. 10. Rookie Tommy Wingels, called up to replace him, will miss the Sharks' Western Canada trip this week with an upper-body injury. … Tampa Bay defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron missed the Lightning's road games Friday and Saturday, meaning his back problems have cost him five games. Another defenseman, Victor Hedman, is skating again but not ready to return from the concussion that has kept him out since Dec. 27. … Columbus defenseman Radek Martinek is out for the rest of the season due to a concussion; he hasn't played since Oct. 21. … Calgary forward David Moss has no timetable for his return from a cracked ankle that has limited him to 15 games this season. … Winnipeg is still missing defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who hasn't played since Dec. 23 due to a knee injury and is skating lightly but not practicing.

The week ahead -- It's basically a two-day week as the NHL gets ready for the All-Star Game on Sunday in Ottawa (4 p.m. ET; NBC Sports Network, CBC, RDS). No team has more than two games, and only Detroit and Montreal are in action on Wednesday, the final day of play before the break.

Games to watch:

St. Louis at Detroit (Jan. 23; NBCSP/TSN2) -- The Blues visit Joe Louis Arena for the third time in less than a month in a battle between two of three teams vying for first place in the Central Division -- the Wings lead the division and the overall standings with 65 points; the Blues have 64.

Boston at Washington (Jan. 24) -- One day after visiting the White House, the defending Stanley Cup champs Bruins wrap up their pre-All Star schedule with a visit to the nation's capital and a meeting with the Capitals, one of the NHL's best home teams.

Nashville at Chicago (Jan. 24) -- The Predators return the favor after the Hawks came to Bridgestone Arena three nights earlier, only to leave with a 5-2 loss.

San Jose at Calgary (Jan. 24) -- San Jose finishes a quick four-day swing through Western Canada with a visit to Calgary; it's a rematch of the Sharks' 2-1 shootout win in San Jose a week earlier.

Detroit at Montreal (Jan. 25; NBCSP/TSN/RDS) -- The Wings and Canadiens get the spotlight all to themselves on the final night of play before the break.

Tough week ahead:

Ottawa Senators -- The Senators complete a tough stretch -- four road games in six days -- with back-to-back stops in Los Angeles and Phoenix.

San Jose Sharks -- Not only do the Sharks finish their pre-All Star schedule on the road, they have back-to-back games in Edmonton on Monday and Calgary on Tuesday following a Saturday visit to Vancouver.

Winnipeg Jets -- Visits to the Hurricanes and Rangers on consecutive nights after a home game on Saturday are a tough way to end play before the break.

Easy week ahead:

New Jersey Devils -- New Jersey is enjoying a six-game stay at home, while the visiting Buffalo Sabres play the sixth of a seven-game trip that has seen them do nothing but lose.

New York Rangers -- Not only do the Rangers get to play their only game of the week at home, they'll be facing a Winnipeg team playing its second game in as many nights and third in a four-day stretch.

Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Bolts play 30th-place Columbus in their only game of the week, and they get the Jackets on the second of a back-to-back following a Monday game at Nashville.
Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic