With Sidney Crosby out of the lineup with a high ankle sprain, the Penguins will need everyone to step up their games.
One player who is determined to do that is Evgeni Malkin.
The 21-year-old Penguins star and 2007 NHL rookie of the year knows that no one can fill the void left by the reigning NHL scoring champ and MVP. However, he wants to elevate his game while Crosby is out of the lineup – for however long that may be.
Malkin, who was playing on Crosby’s left wing, has 52 points (23+29) – only 11 behind NHL leaders Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier and Ilya Kovlachuk. Malkin wants to help pick up some of the offensive burden for the Penguins.
“I am going to try my best. I am playing my best every game,” Malkin said through translator George Birman. “Right now, I am going to try to do maybe a little bit more and make sure we are winning the games and try to be a leader of the team.”
Crosby’s loss was a shock to the Penguins. The 20-year-old was tied for the NHL scoring lead with 63 points going into Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay. Crosby was injured while charging through the Lightning zone about halfway through the first period. He was pulled down by Tampa Bay defenseman Paul Ranger near the right circle and swatted a shot at the Lightning goal. Crosby, who drew a penalty on the play, slid and crashed awkwardly against the end boards. His right leg appeared to absorb most of the impact, which resulted in the injury.
Crosby, who will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Saturday, attempted to skate to the Penguins’ bench, but turned around and headed directly to the Penguins’ dressing room in pain. He had to be helped off the ice.
He did not accompany the Penguins on their trip to Montreal for Saturday night’s game against the Canadiens.
Crosby’s injury left the Penguins in shock, but Malkin knows the team must regroup and rally in his absence.
“It’s a big loss for us. It’s our captain and our leader of the team,” Malkin said. “It is a big loss, but we have a good group of guys here and we’re going to try to play our best.”