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Kovalev among deadliest on power play

by Brian Compton

It's no secret the Eastern Conference possesses one phenomenal goal scorer after another.

When it comes to the power play, those scorers are provided an opportunity to showcase their skills with more room to work with. More often that not, the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk make the opposition pay.

Here is's top five power-play performers from the Eastern Conference:

1. Alexei Kovalev, Montreal Canadiens – The man advantage is where this Russian star earns his paycheck. Of Kovalev's 84 points in 2007-08, 47 of them came via the power play. Deadly between the circles, 17 of Kovalev's 35 goals were with the man advantage.

It will be most interesting to see if Kovalev's numbers dip at all now that quarterback Mark Streit is playing elsewhere. Streit signed with the New York Islanders as a free agent in July.

2. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals – He's arguably the best player in the League regardless of what the situation is on the ice, but the 2008 Hart Trophy winner becomes that much better when he's provided a little extra space.

Ovechkin – who played a huge role during the Caps' magical run to the Southeast Division title last season – found the back of the net 22 times on the power play. In all, 37 of Ovechkin's 112 points (he finished with a League-best 65 goals) came on the man advantage.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins – Scary to think this guy is the No. 2 center in the Steel City, but that's what happens when you're a teammate of Sidney Crosby.

Nonetheless, No. 71 tortured the opposition on the power play last season, racking up 17 goals and 23 assists. While there have been some personnel changes in Pittsburgh this offseason, Malkin will certainly continue to be a force on the second line with Petr Sykora and Ruslan Fedotenko.

4. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres – He had only 24 points on the power play last season, but 19 of them were goals. That turned out to be more than half of Vanek's goal production, as he finished with 36 tallies.

Vanek was one of two Sabres to score more than 10 goals on the power play last season. Ales Kotalik (12) was also very impressive with the man advantage.

5. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers
– One of the deadliest shooters in the game, Kovalchuk managed to score 16 power-play goals last season despite playing with a mostly-inexperienced group.

Kovalchuk may experience even more success this time around, thanks to the signing of quarterback/defenseman Ron Hainsey in July. Hainsey had 32 points for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season.

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