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Malkin on playing with Guentzel: "We love to help the team win"

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

After Jake Guentzel first got called up to Pittsburgh during his rookie season, former Penguins winger Conor Sheary said that he was in high demand as a linemate because of how good he was.

Guentzel ended up winning the Stanley Cup that spring playing alongside Sidney Crosby, and the two have been virtually inseparable ever since. 

But with Crosby currently sidelined long-term after undergoing a core muscle repair, Evgeni Malkin has gotten the chance to center Guentzel - and they've had immediate and consistent chemistry since being put together on Nov. 12 against the New York Rangers.

"We did not play together much before, but when Sid was injured Coach gave us more time," Malkin said. "And then we learn each other. I knew how he played, he knew how I played. We just support each other. We're happy with what we're doing right now. We love to help the team win."

That's exactly what they did in the Penguins' 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, with Malkin and Guentzel both tallying a goal and two assists.

That's been quite the trend lately for the tandem, who have combined for 22 points over their last six games - with Malkin recording 12 (4G-8A) and Guentzel recording 10 (4G-6A). Together, they have scored 36.6 percent of Pittsburgh's goals (8/22) during that span.

"They're just two real good players that have good instincts," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "As a result, I think they have an opportunity to be good together."

Guentzel opened up the scoring with his 16th goal of the season that wasn't his prettiest, but hey, they all count the same on the scoresheet. 

On the play, he crashed the net and as he went sliding into the crease, the puck bounced off his skate and squeaked through Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier's pads.

After they set up Chad Ruhwedel's first goal of the year at the end of the period, Malkin got on the scoresheet in the second with a turning shot off a feed from Guentzel.

"He's a smart player," Malkin said of Guentzel. "He does not hold the puck so much, but in the offensive zone he will pass, look to the net and has an unbelievable shot. He is really smart. I use him when he's open and I know he will pass me back right away. How we play, we find each other so much, it's easy to play."

Guentzel agreed with that, saying that not much changes from his perspective when it comes to playing with Malkin after spending so much time alongside Crosby.

"You want to give them the puck as much as possible because they're both such high-end players, and just try to get open for them because they're so skilled with the puck," Guentzel said. "Their thinking is high caliber. You just want to get open for them."

Malkin said Guentzel's smarts are what stands out the most to him. Guentzel said for him, it's Malkin's skill.

"The fakes, the passes, he can do it all," Guentzel said. "You don't really see that when you're on the bench but when you play with him it's the little things like that that really make him the player that he is and why he's had so much success over his career. It's just fun to play alongside him."

They also love playing alongside the third member of their line, Bryan Rust, who has been a big complement with the speed that he brings.

"He's great on the forecheck," Sullivan said of Rust. "He forces turnovers. Those guys have an opportunity to take advantage of it. Rusty has got pretty good hockey sense to be able to get involved in the offense and supporting the puck and things of that sort. The three of them have played well."

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