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Crosby, Malkin have no interest in leaving Penguins

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com

PITTSBURGH -- Forward Evgeni Malkin plans to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Malkin said Sunday he has no intention to leave the Penguins. Despite the Penguins losing in five games to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round, Malkin believes the proper pieces are in place for the Penguins to remain a Stanley Cup contender.

"I like this city," Malkin said Sunday during the Penguins' final media availability of the season. "I'd like to stay here. I have a house here. My parents love to stay here. We won one time, a Stanley Cup [2009]. Me and [Sidney Crosby], and [Marc-Andre Fleury], I believe we can do it again."

Malkin was held without a point in the playoffs for the first time in his career, and Pittsburgh played without three of its top four defensemen, Kris Letang [concussion], Christian Ehrhoff [upper-body injury] and Derrick Pouliot [upper-body injury], throughout the playoffs. Malkin, who said he did not play with a significant injury but requires some rest, thought the injured defensemen was the primary reason for the early exit.

"I like it; it's a good group," Malkin said. "We stay together all throughout the playoffs. They're good guys … I think it's injuries. We lost three good defensemen. It was a tough season for us. I had a couple injuries but it's tough to say right now. We have a good team but we played against the best team in the League.

"It's the Rangers. Each game is 2-1. It's tough and we played pretty hard."

In his first season under coach Mike Johnston, Malkin played arguably his most consistent hockey since winning the Hart and Art Ross trophies in 2012. But he struggled through two injuries late in the season. He had 28 goals, tied with Crosby for the Penguins lead, despite failing to score a goal since March 6 and missing 13 regular-season games.

"It's tough for [Johnston]. It was his first year," Malkin said. "I think he's nervous. But I like that he always stays positive. If we have a problem at the end of the season … he stays positive. He supports the guys. We practice hard. We work hard. We always stay positive.

"He came to Russia in the summer. I met him in Russia and he has a good personality. I play a lot this season, 18 to 20 minutes [per game] is good for me. I like what he does."

Crosby, who also definitively stated he does not plan to leave Pittsburgh, was complimentary of Johnston and his coaching staff. He said Johnston was placed in a difficult scenario and handled it impressively.

"I think you saw it right away," Crosby said. "That's not easy with so many new players and new staff, to come in and get things organized as quickly as they did. You know, [training] camp's not that long before you get to games and I think we did a great job coming together as a team. And I think as a coaching staff they were a big part of that.

"With all the adversity, injuries and stuff like that, I thought they handled it well and I think it will improve with them knowing guys better."

The Penguins began the season 16-5-2 and were tied with the New York Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division on Dec. 1. But they went 27-22-10 the rest of the way and clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the final day of the regular season.

Crosby said he thinks the start Pittsburgh had was more indicative of the kind of team it can be.

"You look at the start we had with a full lineup and the guys who are supposed to be in there and we had some pretty good results," Crosby said. "Obviously it's a long season. You still have to prove that throughout it, but yeah, I believe that we definitely [have the right pieces]."

Crosby said he will play for Canada in the 2015 IIHF World Championship. Malkin said he is unsure if he will play for Russia.

The Rangers eliminated the Penguins with four 2-1 wins. Pittsburgh scored four goals in its lone win, in Game 2, but never was able to take advantage of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's strong playoff performance.

"I think it's tough to score in the playoffs in general," Crosby said. "To really pinpoint one thing, I don't know. It wasn't like they got five or anything like that. They got two. I would say the power play probably hurt us a little bit. If you look at power play in the playoffs they're usually not operating in the same way they do in the regular season anyway. Usually percentages are down a bit. But I would say that hurt us. And then the fact that we probably had to kill more penalties than you would have liked.

"It's a lot of time you're defending and you're not able to score."

Crosby and Malkin have not reached the Stanley Cup Final since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. The closest they've come since then was a four-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final. Then last season they lost to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round after holding a 3-1 series lead.

"Having not been there for a while I think you understand that it's tough to get there," Crosby said. "I've said it before; when we lost in '08 [Cup Final] I didn't expect to get back there the next year. You want to, but you have to earn it. It's a long road and you need a lot of things to go right to get there.

"It's just one of those things where we have to find a way to get back there and find a way to win."

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