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Even Without Goals, Malkin Contributes

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Scoring has never been a problem for Penguins center Evgeni Malkin.

Since entering the NHL in the 2006-07 season, Malkin has won two NHL scoring titles (2008-09; 2011-12) while producing four 30-plus goal seasons and topping 100 points three times. In the 2011-12 season he set a career high with 50 goals.

And while Malkin continues to produce this season (he has 13 points in 15 games), he hasn’t been able to fill the net as he normally does. Malkin hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 17 at Philadelphia – a span of eight games.

Malkin, 27, has come close on many occasions. He fired a season-high eight shots on goal Oct. 21 vs. Colorado. On Nov. 1 against Columbus, he shot a puck that went off the crossbar and post and came out.

“I think it’s close,” Malkin said Tuesday afternoon at Southpointe. “The last couple of games I’ve had great chances, a couple posts. I just need one goal and continue to keep it going. Sometimes it’s bad luck, but it’s fine. I’m still positive, focused on my game and I know it’ll come.”

Regardless of his goal totals, Malkin has been one of the Penguins’ best players during the past eight games. Whether he’s winning key faceoffs, drawing penalties or creating offensive zone time and maintaining possession, he’s had a major impact on the games.

“Right now I just want to help the team win,” Malkin said. “(Draw) penalties against me. If I’m not scoring, I can do different jobs. Of course I want to score, but if the team wins it’s fine.”

His head coach pointed out Malkin’s defensive play being his biggest area of contribution.

“His defensive responsibilities and playing away from the puck are a big factor in how we’re trying to play,” Dan Bylsma said. “In Columbus, we gave up very few scoring chances and he’s going up against their top line for most of the night. So he doesn’t end up on the scoresheet per say in the goal department, but at the end of the night he’s kept the other top line off the scoresheet.”

There’s no doubt it’s only a matter of time until Malkin nets himself a goal. In the meantime, he’s just focusing on playing well and not trying to force something to score a goal.

“If you don’t score you try to do too much, push and push,” Malkin said. “Sometimes I just talk to coach and he says, ‘Just relax. Just focus on your game and not pushing too hard.’ You play well and do your job.”

Notes: Chris Kunitz missed his second straight practice and was listed as “probable” for Wednesday night’s game in New York against the Rangers. If Kunitz cannot play the Penguins have enough bodies to fill his spot and will not need to call anyone up … Beau Bennett (lower body) skated for the second straight day. He went through wall battles and physicality during the practice … James Neal (upper body) skated in the morning and will continue to do so this week.

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