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Malkin ready to step up in Crosby's absence

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

NEWARK, N.J. - With Sidney Crosby out for a minimum of six weeks after undergoing a successful core muscle injury repair, everyone in the Penguins dressing room is going to have to step up in some way, shape or form to fill the void left by their captain and leader.

No one more so than Evgeni Malkin, who said that he is ready to embrace the challenge.

"Everyone is looking to me right now," he said. "I will try to show leadership, I will try to play smart. It's not the first time I've been here without Sid. I know it's not easy, but I'm ready. I've played for this team for a long time. It's nothing new for me."

At that point, an alarm started going off in the hallway outside of the visitors locker room at Prudential Center while Malkin was speaking. He paused and then laughed.

"I need to be fire," he said with a smile. "I will be fire."

Malkin has already been heating up since returning from an 11-game absence on Nov. 2, as he currently has points in four straight contests (1G-5A). 

And historically, Malkin tends to elevate his game whenever his fellow franchise center is out of the lineup. In 121 career games without Crosby, Malkin has 66 goals, 95 assists and 161 points.

"I will try my best (to step up)," Malkin said. "It's not the first time. I've been in this situation before. Coach will give me more time to play, probably, and I'm ready. It's a great time to show my game."

While Malkin collected an assist in the Penguins' last game, a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, he wasn't happy with how he played in the overtime - taking the blame for his turnover in the offensive zone that eventually resulted in the winning goal.

"I played bad in OT and they scored," Malkin said. "I need to play better for sure."

What Malkin likes about the group the Penguins have now - and what makes him believe that they will overcome the adversity they're dealing with right now having Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang all out of the lineup - is that everybody felt the same way coming off of that setback.

"We understand we have a chance to win," Malkin said. "We lost last game and I see today, we're not happy. We understand we can play better. Every guy here, they're hungry to play. We understand (there are) not many chances you can win the Cup. We have a great team and a great leadership group here."

While Malkin has played without Crosby before, for most of his teammates, this is their first time being without the captain for an extended stretch of time. 

While he's missed games here and there over the last few years, Crosby's last major injury came at the end of the 2012-13 season, when he suffered a broken jaw that sidelined him for about a month.

"This is kind of like the first time where you know you're without him for a while," said Crosby's longtime winger Jake Guentzel. "Everyone's got to step up when you lose a player like that. We know we've got to be better. Everyone's got to be on their A game."

For Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, it's going to be about relying on each other - making sure there is a collective effort on both sides of the puck while paying attention to detail and having discipline shift in and shift out.

"There's no question when you lose a guy like Sid, he's not easy to replace in all those capacities because he brings so much to the table for our team," Sullivan said. "But we do have capable guys and we're just going to have to make sure that we stay on task and we work together to try to get results here."

Note: These are the lines the Penguins used at practice…

Guentzel-Malkin-Rust 

Galchenyuk-Bjugstad-Lafferty 

Kahun-McCann-Simon 

Aston-Reese--Blueger-Tanev 

Dumoulin-Marino 

Pettersson-Schultz 

Johnson-Riikola 

(Gonchar)-Ruhwedel

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