For years, hype for contests between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins centered on Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, with Evgeni Malkin lurking as one of many fascinating subplots in what became the best rivalry in the NHL.
The two franchises meet again Sunday (NBC, 3 p.m. ET), but it might be time for Malkin to take center stage. He is the reigning League MVP, and while Crosby's journey back from concussion-related problems dominated the NHL landscape, Malkin's return to dominance in 2011-12 after back-to-back injury-marred seasons is no less critical to Pittsburgh's near- and long-term outlook.
"I think it was more than anyone expected coming off the knee injury that he had," Phil Bourque, the Penguins' radio analyst, said. "It is one thing when you're talking about Sid and Geno [Malkin] and [Ovechkin], depending on what month it is -- Alex might catch fire when Sid and Geno aren't quite there, and people will say [Ovechkin] is the best player in the world."