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No rush for Crosby thanks to Malkin's heroics

by John Kreiser

With Evgeni Malkin picking up the slack due to
Sidney Crosby's injury, the Pittsburgh Penguins
have not missed a beat in the Atlantic Division.
Evgeni Malkin video highlights 
When Sidney Crosby went down with a high ankle sprain, the Pittsburgh Penguins knew they would have to lean heavily on their other young star, Evgeni Malkin.

So far, so good.

Malkin has been piling up the points in Crosby's absence while driving the team to the top of the Atlantic Division standings. He had three goals and 12 points in four games last week and has five straight multipoint performances, including a four-point game in Sunday's 4-3 win over Philadelphia. In the 10 games since Crosby was injured, Malkin has eight goals and 13 assists, while averaging more than 21 minutes a game.

Even scarier: Malkin put on a show for his mom and dad with seven points in two weekend games — and his parents are staying for another two weeks.

For the season, his 73 points have him in the top five in scoring — and he's the biggest reason the Penguins have jumped ahead of the pack in the Atlantic Division.

Who's hot — Five players who've been producing:

Jean-Sebastien Giguere  Giguere was brilliant during the latter stages of the Ducks' long road trip. He went 4-0-1 with two shutouts in his last five games, allowing just four goals and stopping 136 of the 140 shots he faced.

Jason Spezza  With his team struggling, Ottawa's No. 1 center has stepped up. His three-goal, three-assist game against Montreal capped a three-game stretch in which he went 4-7-11. The six-point performance was a career high and gave the Senators some breathing room over Montreal in the Northeast Division race.

Henrik Zetterberg  Zetterberg and his linemates, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom, may be the best unit in hockey. Zetterberg was 6-6-12 during an eight-game points streak that ended Tuesday and has already matched last season's goal total with 33.

John Kreiser
John Kreiser, who has covered the NHL since 1975, is's man behind the numbers. His column appears each weekend on

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Kari Lehtonen  Lehtonen has been giving the Thrashers the kind of goaltending they'll need to make the playoffs. Though he's only 3-2-0 in his last five decisions, he's allowed just seven goals (1.41 goals-against average) on 158 shots during that span.

Vaclav Prospal  One reason the Tampa Bay Lightning have been playing better is Prospal, who scored twice Tuesday night against Montreal and has six goals in his last seven games. Two, including the second one against the Canadiens, have been game-winners.

Who's not — Five players who've been struggling:

Jaromir Jagr  The Rangers are off until Saturday, and they hope the break will have Jagr find his scoring touch. He's mired in a career-worst nine-game goal-scoring drought, hasn't had a point in seven games, and has just 47 points in 59 games.

Eric Staal  With Cory Stillman now a Senator, the Hurricanes need Staal to snap out of his slump. He's gone without a point in his last seven games, a big reason that Carolina's offense has largely ground to a halt.

Rick Dipietro  The Islanders and their All-Star goalie have struggled since the break. The Isles lost their first seven games after play resumed, and DiPietro was in net for six of them before he and his team beat Philadelphia 4-3 Tuesday.

Kristian Huselius  Huselius has cooled down after a stretch that saw him ring up 25 points in 13 games for the Calgary Flames. His two assists against Edmonton Monday were his first points in seven games, and he hasn't scored a goal since Jan. 16.

Tom Gilbert  Edmonton's rookie defenseman has had a tough time of it over the past few weeks. He has a goal and three assists in his last 11 games, but is minus-11 over that span.

Injury news and notes — The best news for the Florida Panthers this week is that it appears forward Richard Zednik will be OK after having his neck cut by a skate in Sunday night's loss at Buffalo. He lost five units of blood when his carotid artery was nearly severed by a teammate's skate. Doctors say he should be able to play again, but there's no timetable for his return. He had had six goals and nine points in his last four games before being injured.

Out — Philadelphia Flyers forward Simon Gagne sustained his third concussion of the season in Sunday's 4-3 loss at

Pittsburgh. He says he hopes to return before the end of the season. The Flyers also lost defenseman Braydon Coburn Saturday night a lower leg injury and forward Scott Upshall has missed three games with an ankle injury. … Detroit forward Daniel Cleary broke his jaw Saturday in Toronto and had surgery; he's likely to miss most of the rest of the regular season. The Wings say he should be back for the playoffs. Detroit also called up goaltender Jimmy Howard to back up Chris Osgood; Dominik Hasek is day-to-day with a hip injury. … Phoenix captain Shane Doan missed Monday night's game in Dallas due to a groin injury. … Anaheim center Doug Weight will miss a week or so with a strained left shoulder sustained last week. He's on IR. … Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais sat out Tuesday's game with an oblique injury.

Still out — Sheldon Souray's first season in Edmonton is over. Souray will miss the rest of the season with a left shoulder injury that required surgery. He had been having problems with the shoulder since being injured in an Oct. 13 game against Vancouver. The Oilers hope to have center Shawn Horcoff back for training camp in the fall after he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. … Dallas continues to win despite the absence of defensemen Sergei

Zubov(groin, foot) and Philippe Boucher (shoulder). Boucher has resumed practicing with the team but there is no timetable for the return of either player. … Detroit put defenseman Niklas Kronwall on IR with a strained shoulder that's kept him out of the lineup since Jan. 30. … Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, out since early December with a high ankle sprain, is scheduled to test the ankle with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday. He's expected to play at least two games in the minors. … Columbus center Sergei Fedorov, out since Jan. 17 due to a concussion, is expected to resume skating this week. The Blue Jackets are also likely to be without defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen for another week or two, also due to a concussion. They may get forward Fredrik Modin, sidelined since Jan. 29 with a torn hamstring, back on Wednesday. … Florida forward Rostislav Olesz could be back next weekend; he's missed nearly a month with a wrist injury. … Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell is still out with a stress fracture in his back but could return to the lineup in a week or so. … Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik sat out again Tuesday; he's missed four games with the flu.

Returning — The Colorado Avalanche may soon get some help up front. Ryan Smyth (broken ankle) could be back Thursday. Joe Sakic (hernia surgery) is skating again, but Paul Stastny (appendectomy) is being bothered by a groin problem. There's no timetable for Sakic's return. … Ottawa got a big boost on Feb. 7 when Dany Heatley (separated shoulder) came back. He had seven points in his first two games. … Buffalo center Tim Connolly returned Sunday

after missing 13 games with hip and groin problems. He may skip a few practices and sit out a game or two as the Sabres try to keep him healthy for the stretch run. … Dallas goaltender Marty Turco was a winner in Monday's 2-1 victory over Phoenix after sitting out two games with a neck injury. … St. Louis forward Martin Rucinsky returned Sunday after missing 17 games with a separated shoulder. … Chicago rookie center Jonathan Toews returned on Sunday after missing nearly six weeks with a sprained knee. The Hawks also hope to get forward Jason Williams back in the lineup this weekend. He's been out for more than 10 weeks with a groin injury. … Anaheim center Samuel Pahlsson also came back on Sunday. He had been out since Dec. 22 with abdominal problems. … Minnesota forward Mark Parrish returned Saturday after missing two games with a concussion. … Philadelphia forward Joffrey Lupul returned Saturday after missing five weeks with a concussion and bruised spinal cord. … Florida defenseman Ville Peltonen returned Saturday after breaking his foot on Dec. 15. … Boston forward Glen Murray was back in the lineup this past weekend; he had been out since Dec. 20 with a hip flexor injury.

The week ahead — The schedule lets up a bit, with fewer back-to-backs and four-in-six stretches. The Southern California teams finally get to go home; the Alberta teams and San Jose head out for road trips.

Games to watch:

Ottawa at New Jersey (Feb. 13) — The Devils and Senators begin a home-and-home series that concludes in Ottawa on Saturday. It's the Sens' first visit to the Prudential Center since Oct. 27, when they spoiled the Devils' debut in their new arena.

Dallas at Phoenix (Feb. 14) — The Stars go for a franchise-record eighth consecutive victory in the back end of another home-and-home series; Dallas won 2-1 at home on Monday night.

Edmonton at Vancouver (Feb. 16) — The Canucks will try to keep this game from going into a shootout — they've lost three of those to the Oilers this season.

Detroit at Dallas (Feb. 17) — The Wings hope to continue their domination of Dallas in this week's nationally televised game on NBC.

New York Rangers at Montreal (Feb. 19) — The Rangers go for only the second season series sweep of the Canadiens in franchise history (the other was in 2001-02).

Tough week ahead:

Montreal Canadiens A home-and-home weekend series with the Flyers followed two days later by a home game against the Rangers caps five games in eight days.

San Jose Sharks San Jose hosts Edmonton on Thursday, then bids farewell to the Shark Tank for the rest of the month, beginning with afternoon games in New York on Sunday and Long Island on Monday.

Florida Panthers The Cats have home games Wednesday and Friday, then hit the road for games in Carolina on Saturday and Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Easy week ahead:

Anaheim Ducks With the longest trip in team history behind them, the Ducks get a breather, with only a pair of home games (Friday and Sunday) in an eight-day stretch.

New York Rangers The Rangers go from Sunday to Saturday without playing, then have back-to-back home matinees with Buffalo and San Jose before visiting Montreal on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Lightning The Bolts visit Philadelphia on Thursday, host Washington on Saturday and then enjoy a three-day break.

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