GLENDALE, Arizona - Evgeni Malkin has experimented with different skates, sticks and gear to try and break out of his personal doldrums.
But Malkin knows that his gear isn't the issue.
"That's not the problem. The problem is only in my head," he said pointing to his cranium. "I know that. My gear is fine. When you're not confident you change everything, gloves, sticks, skates."
Malkin, 32, hasn't been himself lately, perhaps most of the season. And his lack of confidence is evident on the ice.
"A guy that's as accomplished as 'Geno' is - he's one of the premiere players in the league - how could he struggle with confidence?" Sullivan remarked. "But it just goes to show that all of these guys are human and they go through a rash of emotions like all of us do."
The two-time NHL scoring champion is still producing. He recently had a six-game scoring streak where he compiled 10 points (2G-8A), and through the opening 46 games of the season he has 50 points (14G-36A).
But Malkin isn't dominating games the way he has in the past. And what's worse, he's been careless with the puck and hasn't been strong defensively. He finished with a -3 in each of the last two games.
"Not happy with the last two games. Not my best games," he said. "I'm a little bit frustrated right now. It's tough. I'll keep going to work, try to play better, maybe simplify."
Malkin sat down with the coaching staff Thursday morning before practice to watch film of his recent games in an attempt to rectify the situation.
"We watched video today with coach. I see my mistakes," Malkin said. "I want to play better for sure.
"No turnovers in the neutral zone. Last game I tried to beat 1-on-1 against two guys. It doesn't work right now. You need to be simple. Maybe chip puck into the offensive zone and play simple. Score a couple goals and the confidence is back."
Simplifying his game was the message from head coach Mike Sullivan during the video session.
"We're trying to reinforce to Geno that he's a great player and we know he's going to be a big part of this team's success moving forward," Sullivan said. "We're trying to help him with some of the little insights that we see. We don't want him to overthink the game.
"We want him to simplify his game. Shoot the puck we he has the opportunity, and focus shift to shift. As long as he does that, and takes what the game is giving him, we know he's going to be fine."
Malkin began the season strong. He totaled 20 points (7G-13A) in the opening 11 games, which included a 10-game scoring streak. But since then his play has ebbed and flowed.
"It's a tough year for me," Malkin said. "I play up and down. One game good and one not. I need to play more good ones before the break."
Sullivan has reunited Malkin with Phil Kessel in an attempt to spark his Russian star. And perhaps that, along with the return of Patric Hornqvist from a concussion will ignite his play.
"'Horny' is back, maybe that'll help me. Maybe play with Phil next game," Malkin said. "We had a good practice today. Rest yesterday. I feel fine. A little bit frustrated the last two games, but it's fine. I'm back."