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Malkin returns, top scorers meet as Pens host Lightning

by Adam Kimelman

LIGHTNING (9-11-1) at PENGUINS (14-8-0)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 3-6-1; Pittsburgh 6-4-0

Season series: This is the second of three games. On Feb. 24, Sidney Crosby had a pair of goals and an assist in the Penguins' 5-3 win in Pittsburgh.

Big story: Evgeni Malkin returns to the Pittsburgh lineup on Monday night in a game that already featured the NHL's top-two scorers. Crosby's League-high 34 points include nine points in his past four games. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, second with 32 points and first with 15 goals, has a nine-game point-scoring streak.

Team Scope:

Lightning: After starting the season with everything going right, now everything seems to be going wrong for the Lightning, and that was seen in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Stamkos had a chance to put his team ahead but his shot missed the net. Defenseman Eric Brewer had jumped into the rush, so when the Bruins got the loose puck, they had a 2-on-1 the other way, and Brad Marchand scored the winning goal for the Bruins.

"We played 58 minutes of hard, intelligent, paying-the-price work against a top team in the conference," Lightning coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Tribune. "We wasted it with a gamble at the end."

Despite the loss, Boucher said he was happy with the effort after a 4-1 loss Feb. 28 to the New York Rangers that Stamkos called "embarrassing." The Lightning were more aggressive and scored a pair of first-period power-play goals Saturday.

"It was 58 minutes of smart, hard work of paying the price," Boucher said, "and that's why I'm so disappointed we wasted it."

Penguins: Malkin passed the required tests and it was announced Monday morning he would return after missing the past four games with a concussion. He had gone through a full-contact practice on Sunday.

It was Malkin's first time on the ice since being diagnosed with a concussion after a hard fall into the boards Feb. 22 against the Florida Panthers.

"It was good to practice on the ice today with the team and [absorb] contact a little bit," Malkin said Sunday. "And I feel good now."

His teammates also felt good seeing him on the ice.

"He wants to test himself out with some battles and puck protection and things like that," defenseman Deryk Engelland said. "So he's making it through so far and he's looking good. He was the same Geno. It was good to see him out there."

Who's hot: Lightning forward Martin St. Louis has two goals in his past 10 games, but has nine points in that span. … Penguins forward Chris Kunitz has points in five straight games, and five goals in five games.

Injury report: Lightning forwards Ryan Malone (lower body) and Benoit Pouliot (shoulder) are out Monday. … Penguins defenseman Paul Martin (lower body) is out.

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