Penguins center and NHL defending scoring champion Evgeni Malkin has just one goal coming into a game tonight against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
And there are times he has gotten beat to pucks or turned the puck over, sometimes leading to a good scoring chance or a goal for the other club.
What happened to the Malkin who was flying for his hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk during the lockout and was among the Kontinental Hockey League leaders with 23 goals, 42 assists in 37 games?
He admitted Tuesday that it has been a tough transition back to the NHL, where he is playing his seventh season, primarily because of the smaller rinks in North America.
"It's so much tougher," Malkin said Wednesday after practice at Consol Energy Center. "The bigger ice is so much different. You need a little bit of games to have more confidence on the [smaller] ice. I feel pretty good. I have lots of scoring chances, but I'm not scoring. A couple more goals scored, and I'll have more confidence."
Malkin isn't longing for the KHL, though.
"I like [the smaller ice] more because you have lots of scoring chances, more shots," he said. "It's dangerous around the net. It's a more interesting game. I like it more on the [smaller] ice."
While Malkin's occasional puck mismanagement has drawn attention, he officially has just six giveaways. On the flip side, he was tied for the NHL lead after Tuesday with eight takeaways.
McDonald earns suspension
New York Islanders winger Colin McDonald was suspended by the NHL for two games for his hit from behind Tuesday night against Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
McDonald, who spent last season in the Penguins organization, got a boarding major penalty and a game misconduct at 18:54 of the second period. In its explanatory video, the NHL said McDonald, who was tracking Lovejoy and the puck from behind, had a long lead time before the hit and Lovejoy did not turn before he was driven into the glass and boards.
Lovejoy was not injured, at least not enough to keep him from playing.
"I'm good," he said before the NHL ruling. "I had a bloody nose for a while. Whenever we get hit in the head now, we have to see the doctor [to be evaluated for a possible concussion], and I passed all that. My head feels great. I was coughing up a little blood just from the bloody nose, but, other than that, I was pretty lucky."
As for the hit, Lovejoy said, "I do think I was very vulnerable. My back was to the play the whole time.
"I do know him as a player and as a person. I don't think it was meant to be malicious, but it was definitely not a clean hit."
Lovejoy later left the bench area for a while, but that was because he also had a skate problem after the hit -- his edges got ruined.
The Rangers are expected be without their captain, winger Ryan Callahan, who has a shoulder injury after a fight with Philadelphia winger and former Penguins player Max Talbot. ... Penguins winger James Neal has multiple-point games at Madison Square Garden the past four times he has played there. ... Before Wednesday, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was tied for the league lead with 19 blocked shots. ... The Penguins chased Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, a rare occurrence, in a 6-3 win Jan. 20 in New York. Since he got pulled in that game, Lundqvist is 3-1 with a 1.51 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. ... From the quirky fact department, the most recent Penguins hat trick against the Rangers was Nov. 30, 2009 by Mike Rupp. Rupp is now with the Rangers. The most recent Rangers hat trick against the Penguin was Nov. 15, 2005 by Jaromir Jagr, a former Penguins star.
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 or Twitter: @pgshelly.