Penguins Notebook: Malkin has picked up slack, but still wants Crosby back

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Evgeni Malkin has been the first star in three of the Penguins' past five games. He was the No. 2 once and the No. 3 the other time.

Take that nugget of knowledge at face value, and factor in the eight goals and 13 assists Malkin has in the 10 games since Sidney Crosby went out with a high ankle sprain Jan. 18, and it's hard to deny that Malkin thrives when he's in the spotlight.

"He's just amazing," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "It's great to see. It's really good for us, the way he's kind of taken charge."

While that certainly seems to be the case, it doesn't mean Malkin, who was named the NHL's second star of the week that ended Sunday, is eager to have that spotlight to himself for any longer than necessary.

When asked, jokingly, if he thought his performance of late should convince general manager Ray Shero to trade Crosby before the NHL's Feb. 26 deadline, Malkin all but recoiled in horror as the question was translated for him by team employee George Birman.

"It's impossible," Malkin said. "It's very hard to play without him. He's the leader of the team, and we can't wait until he comes back on the ice."

When it was mentioned to Malkin that he hasn't been making it look hard to play without Crosby, he countered that, "It's hard to play without him. There are lots of games left, so we need him."

While that's a reasonable assessment, Malkin has been dominant lately, piling up three points in three of the past five games and a season-high four in the Penguins' 4-3 victory against Philadelphia Sunday.

"The puck is his now," linemate Petr Sykora said. "When Sid plays, the puck is his, and [Malkin] is there to help him. Right now, this is a huge step for [Malkin], because now he gets all the pucks on the power play, all the pucks on four-on-fours. On the line, he's the guy who gets almost every single puck.

"He's doing a phenomenal job, and he really stepped up."


Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who hasn't played since getting a high ankle sprain Dec. 6 in Calgary, is expected to be in goal for the Penguins' Wilkes-Barre minor-league team when it plays at Norfolk tomorrow.

Fleury is scheduled to stay with the Baby Penguins for at least three games, but the duration of his stay remains open-ended. Under the NHL's labor agreement, he can remain in the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment for up to 14 consecutive days.

"It could be a week, could be two weeks," Shero said. "We'll see. [Goalie coach] Gilles Meloche is going down and will be with him most of the time.

"We'll just see how [Fleury] reacts. Not so much his wins and losses, but his conditioning, his timing, how he's handling the puck, the whole getting-back-into-the-game routine.

"When he feels comfortable, we'll make a decision as to what's best for him and best for us."


Former Penguins winger Glen Murray should be in Boston's lineup when the Bruins visit Mellon Arena tomorrow.

After missing 19 games because of a hip injury, Murray was back in uniform when Boston played in Buffalo Friday, and scored a goal at home the next night against Florida.

"He just creates that threat every time he's on the ice and in that slot area," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the Boston Globe. "Teams tend to pay a lot of attention to him. Either he gets that opportunity or he gets a lot of attention, which opens it up for other people."


Ottawa center Jason Spezza was named NHL's No. 1 star of the week that ended Sunday, while Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere was honored as the No. 3 star. ... Rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski, promoted from Wilkes-Barre last week, still hasn't made his NHL debut, but it isn't out of the question. "Maybe he'll get into a game," Shero said. "We'll see how he does." ... The Penguins signed minor-league defenseman Deryk Engelland to a two-year contract extension.


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