So far, Ryan Malone has averaged nearly 40 points in three NHL seasons.
He hopes his fourth year is even better.
If his goal in Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Ducks is any indication, Malone is on the right track.
Malone picked up a pass from a diving Sidney Crosby, broke in alone on Jonas Hiller and rifled the puck past the Ducks goaltender’s glove for a 5-3 lead with 6:09 to play. It ended up being the game-winner.
“Every time you’re on the ice with Sid, you have to be ready. He is always going to give the second and third effort. That’s what makes him a great player,” Malone said. “He did a great job of getting me the puck and I just bored down and put it in the back of the net.”
|Ryan Malone, left, celebrates his goal with Mark Recchi. |
Now 28, Malone has worked hard to transform his body – and his game – this season.
“I have been working out with the same guy in Minnesota – Kevin Ziegler – and it’s finally starting to pay off, I think,” he said. “I feel focused. After last year, how we went out, we want to rebound from that. Personally, I thought last year was an OK year, but I definitely know I have another level to my game and I am going to try to get there.”
Malone looks leaner and more defined, which has improved his game.
“I feel really good,” he said. “Like I said, I have been working with Kevin and also our new strength and conditioning coach here, Mike Kadar, has done a great job with us, getting us ready for games. I’ve just been following his plan and, so far, so good.”
Another year of experience has benefited Malone as well. He feels comfortable playing in Michel Therrien’s system.
“I think it’s huge, especially under the same coach with the same systems. Everyone should know what they are doing,” he said. “You’re just going out there and playing and not really thinking too much of the system – you can just go and play. Being around the same guys is awesome and a great feeling to go to battle every night with these guys. It’s definitely fun.”
Malone has been shuffled through the lineup, but that doesn’t bother the left winger since the Penguins have so much talent.
“This year, I really tried to focus on myself and moving my feet and creating my own scoring chances instead of relying on the other guys out there,” he said. “Anytime you’re on the ice with really anyone, it’s great and you’re going to get chances.”
He looks forward to a successful 2007-08 campaign.
“I think everyone is. There are a lot of expectations, but we want to take it one game at a time,” he said. “It was big to get those first two points under our belt Saturday. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”