Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne
--- named one of the NHL's 3 Stars of the Week for his performances last week --- was honored by the league again, today, earning recognition as one of the NHL's 3 Stars of the Month for the month of January. Rinne is joined by NY Islanders forward John Tavares and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.
This is the fifth time a Preds player has been recognized with one of the NHL's 3 Stars of the Month and the fourth time that Rinne has won a Monthly league award. Rinne was the NHL's Rookie of the Month in February 2009 and earned one of the league's monthly 3 Stars in both January 2011 and March 2011.
A workhorse in goal, Rinne is second in the League in games (46), minutes played (2,628), shots faced (1,374) and saves (1,269). He's currently on a 10-game winning streak and won 11 of his 12 starts in January. Rinne had a stretch of nine consecutive games allowing two goals or fewer end Tuesday, but still held the fort late as the Predators rallied for a 5-4 win against the Wild. Rinne stopped all 38 shots against Columbus on Jan. 19 for his fourth shutout of the season, and posted a .935 save percentage for the month.
"All the pieces are going really well," Rinne said last week in regards to the Preds' stellar team defense. "Just defensively as a group, we're playing solid hockey. It's not only the defensemen. A lot of it is forwards, too. They come back, they play hard and they help us down there."
Tavares punctuated a scintillating first month of 2012 with a 2-goal, 4-point effort Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. On Wednesday, the third-year New York Islanders center was named the NHL's First Star for January.
In 13 games this past month, Tavares registered 9 goals and 13 assists while displaying remarkable consistency in being held off the score sheet just once. His 4-point night against the Hurricanes marked the sixth time in January he had a multi-point game -- Tavares also had a pair of 3-point games and three 2-point efforts.
"I try to approach each game with the same work ethic and attitude," Tavares said Tuesday. "You get to know the teams you're playing against and what you expect your matchups to be, but I just try and go off my hard work and create my space that way. And my linemates have been phenomenal, too."
Despite the continued absence of Sidney Crosby, the Penguins enter February on an eight-game winning streak, and Malkin has stood front and center throughout the run. His game-tying goal with 6.6 seconds left Tuesday against the Maple Leafs kept the streak from ending and gave him 12 goals for the month. He also added the decisive shootout goal for the second time in four games. Malkin had 3 game-winning goals in January -- including the OT winner against in a national-TV showdown with the Capitals -- and a hat trick as part of a 5-point night against the Lightning.
"He's just an unbelievable player right now," teammate James Neal said after Malkin's goal completed a 3-point afternoon against Washington.