|The Pittsburgh Penguins have a “law of averages” going on with their two superstars right now: when either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is out of the lineup for a period of time, the other seemingly puts the team on his back and has a MVP-type campaign. Such is the case in the Steel City right now, as Malkin is tearing through NHL defenses and leading the Penguins with 36 goals on the year. |
In the Penguins’ 8-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon, Malkin exploded for his ninth career hat trick and added an assist for a dominant four-point game. Jordan Staal, who has been beset by injuries the last couple of years, continued a torrid stretch of play by tallying his 20th and 21st goals of the season. Not only was it another authoritative win for the high-flying Penguins offense, but another solid effort from a blue line that has also been hampered by the injury bug.
Sure, the Penguins thought Crosby would be anchoring their No. 1 line between James Neal and Chris Kunitz right now, but Malkin has been one of the hottest scorers in the league this year and the trio has combined for 83 goals and 180 points – while currently ranking as the club’s top three scorers, as well. Pittsburgh has won five its last seven games and has a slim one-point lead on fifth-place New Jersey in the Eastern Conference standings. How crucial is that race going to be? The Penguins, who are scoring at will on home ice this season, would greatly benefit from having home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Their situation in goal is in good hands, as Marc-Andre Fleury is in the midst of another stellar season. He’s 32-14-3 on the year and has been forced to play more lately with backup Brent Johnson struggling (and currently injured). Brad Thiessen is with the Penguins on emergency recall from Wilkes-Barre (AHL), and could possibly start in goal against the Blue Jackets this afternoon.
| || || |
|Nash (20) ||Malkin (33) |
|Prospal (28) ||Malkin (40) |
|Nash (42) ||Malkin (73) |
|Dorsett (177) ||Neal (66) |
|MacKenzie (+1) ||Dupuis (+10) |
|Sanford (10-13-4) |
|Fleury (32-14-3) |
|Sanford (2.52) ||Fleury (2.34) |
|Sanford (.915) ||Fleury (.912) || |
|• Columbus has posted a 5-4-1 mark the last 10 games after going winless its previous six games (0-5-1). |
• Derick Brassard has points in three of four games after notching an assist Feb. 21 vs. San Jose. He had goals in back-to-back games Feb. 18-19 after being held goalless the previous five games. He has points in seven of the last 11 games (4-5-9), while registering 9-11-20 the last 29 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season.
• Rick Nash has points in seven of 10 games after scoring his 20th goal of the season Feb. 21 vs. San Jose. It marks the eighth consecutive season he has hit the 20-goal mark. He added an assist against the Sharks for his second multi-point game in the last seven games after being held to one the previous 17 games. He has 3-6-9 the last 10 games, while collecting 7-8-15 the last 22 games and 16-14-30 the last 43 games.
• Tonight marks the lone meeting this season between the Blue Jackets and Penguins. Columbus is 5-5-3 all-time against the Penguins, including a 2-4-0 mark in Pittsburgh. The Blue Jackets won the last meeting between the teams, 4-1 at Pittsburgh on Feb. 8.