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Crosby and Malkin give Penguins plenty of punch

by John Kreiser
It's hard enough to stop Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin; stopping them both is going to be a hurdle for whichever team the Pittsburgh Penguins meet in the second round of the playoffs.

The Penguins' power pair was too much for the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round, a six-game win for Pittsburgh. Malkin, the regular-season scoring leader, had 4 goals and 5 assists, giving him the playoff scoring lead entering the new week. Crosby had 4 goals and 4 assists, putting him second in the scoring race.

The two were at their best in Saturday's 5-3 series-clinching victory at Philadelphia. The Flyers grabbed a 3-0 lead early in the second period, but Malkin's persistence led to Ruslan Fedotenko's goal that got the comeback started. Crosby batted in the tying goal, and then Malkin's drop pass and drive to the net cleared the way for Sergei Gonchar's game-winning goal. Crosby added an empty-netter to send the Flyers home for the summer.

The Crosby-Malkin pairing will be tough for any opponent to stop in the second round of the playoffs and beyond -- and the experience of having played in the Stanley Cup Final last spring will give both a boost in confidence.

Five up -- Five players who had a good second week of the postseason:

Tom Poti -- After a dreadful regular season (3-10-13 in 52 games), Poti has stepped it up in the playoffs for Washington. He had a goal and 3 assists on Sunday and is 2-4-6 in six games for the Caps.

Kris Versteeg -- The Calder Trophy finalist got off to a slow start, but has been among Chicago's best players in the Blackhawks' last two games, scoring twice and adding 3 assists.

Eric Staal -- With Carolina's season on the line Sunday night, Staal stepped up the way a No. 1 center has to, scoring 2 goals and adding an assist in the Hurricanes' 4-0 victory. He leads the Hurricanes with 4 goals.

Johan Franzen
-- Need a game-winning goal? Call Franzen, who not only is an effective scorer, but seems to be able to light the lamp at the right time. He scored the series-winner for Detroit against Columbus with 46.6 seconds left in regulation, giving him eight playoff winners in less than four seasons.

Roberto Luongo -- Vancouver's sweep of St. Louis may have looked easy, but it wasn't. Luongo was sharp all the way through -- especially in Game 4, when he made 18 of his 47 saves in overtime before the Canucks got the game-winner.

Five down
-- Five players who haven't been producing:

Nikolai Zherdev -- The Rangers have to decide whether to keep Zherdev this summer, and his play against Washington is not helping his case. Zherdev is scoreless in six games and hasn't been much of a factor in any one of them.

Rod Brind'Amour
-- Carolina's captain has yet to generate anything offensively in the postseason. He has no points through six games and is minus-2. His faceoff win percentage of 54.1 would be good for most people, but is a sharp drop from his regular-season figure of 61.0.

Dainius Zubrus -- Zubrus is one of a handful of New Jersey forwards who haven't produced offensively. He's failed to put up a point in six games and is minus-3 in the last three games.

Milan Michalek -- San Jose barely has gotten enough goals to force its series against Anaheim to a sixth game. One reason is Michalek, who had 23 goals and 57 points during the regular season, is scoreless in five games.

Carey Price -- The second-year goaltender's second-half problems extended into the playoffs. He was in goal for all four games as Montreal was swept by Boston, allowing at least three goals in each game.

Injuries, news and notes -- The good news for Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Vancouver is they have time to let their injured players heal. That could be a big advantage in the second round if they face a team that's had to go through a seven-game meat-grinder in the opening round.

Out -- New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador left Game 4 against Carolina with a knee injury and sat out Games 5 and 6. ... Anaheim forward Petteri Nokelainen has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. Ryan Carter has played both games in his place. ... Vancouver center Mats Sundin missed the Canucks' last two games in the opening round against St. Louis with a lower-body injury. He says he's not sure he'll be ready to start the second round. ... Detroit center Kris Draper missed all four games of the Wings' first-round sweep of Columbus with an upper-body injury. ... Rangers center Blair Betts left Sunday's game after being flattened by Washington's Donald Brashear in the first period.

Returning -- Carolina forward Sergei Samsonov played Sunday after sitting out Game 5 with a lower-body injury. ... New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner returned Sunday after missing three games with a lower-body injury. ... Calgary forward Rene Bourque played in Game 5 against Chicago after sitting out Game 4 with a sore ankle. He missed the last seven weeks of the season with a high-ankle sprain. ... Boston defenseman Andrew Ference, out since April 4 with a lower-body injury, may be ready for the second round. ... Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo missed Game 4 against St. Louis with a lower-body injury, but said he'll be ready for the start of the Canucks' second-round series. ... San Jose forward Torrey Mitchell played in his first game for last Tuesday after missing the entire regular season and the first week of the playoffs after breaking his leg in training camp.

Still out -- Boston defenseman Matt Hunwick, who had his spleen removed April 18, said he hopes to play again this season. For that to happen, however, the Bruins would have to make the Stanley Cup Final. ... Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja, out since Feb. 28 with a concussion, didn't make it back for the first round. It doesn't look like he'll be back for the second round, either.

Non-playoff teams -- St. Louis defenseman Barrett Jackman will have his injured knee looked at this week. He's expected to be fine by training camp. ... Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom underwent hip surgery last Friday; doctors reportedly found less cartilage damage than they originally thought. Also, Minnesota defenseman Brent Burns underwent surgery on his right shoulder. ... St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer underwent another back operation last week. Team president John Davidson said Brewer had a piece of a disc break off, but that the Blues' captain should be ready by training camp. Another St. Louis defenseman, Jay McKee, will have surgery for a torn meniscus. ... Edmonton defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has begun to work out after his shoulder surgery in February. He's expected to be ready for camp.

The week ahead -- At least two first-round series (both in the East) will go the distance; two Western series could also reach a seventh game, depending on the results of a pair of Game 6's Monday night. The second round will begin late this week, though none of the pairings are set as of yet.

Games to watch:
San Jose at Anaheim (April 27, 10:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) -- The Sharks avoided elimination Saturday, but have to win at the Honda Center to force a seventh game back in San Jose on Wednesday.

Chicago at Calgary (April 27, 9:30 p.m. ET, TSN) -- The home team is 5-0 in this series, a good omen for the Flames, who need a win to force a return trip to Chicago for Game 7.

New York Rangers at Washington (April 28, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS) -- The Capitals return to the Verizon Center on a roll after a pair of dominating victories. But beware: They also forced a Game 7 at home in the first round last year by rallying from a 3-1 deficit -- and lost.

Carolina at New Jersey (April 28, 7:30 p.m., RIS, TSN2) -- Neither team has played a Game 7 since the last time it won the Stanley Cup; Carolina in 2006 and New Jersey three years earlier.

Tough/Easy week ahead:
Four of the teams that start this week won't be around at the end. The conference semifinals will start later in the week.

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