Penguins Notebook: Malkin wings it with Staal at center
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Evgeni Malkin was game to try some different things.
He not only had the confidence to score in a shootout -- not his forte during his career -- but he also adapted well to moving out of his normal spot at center to play right wing as Penguins coach Dan Bylsma shook up his lines Sunday for a Stanley Cup final rematch against Detroit at Mellon Arena.
"I'm not that comfortable, but I think I played fine," Malkin said of his new assignment playing on the right side with center Jordan Staal and left winger Pascal Dupuis.
Matchup: Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
TV, radio: Versus, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Ryan Miller for Sabres.
Penguins: Are 24-11-1 when getting 30 or more shots. ... C Sidney Crosby is one assist shy of 300 for career. ... D Sergei Gonchar is one goal shy of 200.
Sabres: Have won four consecutive games. ... C Tim Connolly has points in 17 of his past 18 games. ... D Tyler Myers leads NHL rookies with 24 assists.
Hidden stat: C Jordan Staal is one game away from playing 277th in a row, which would move him into second place all time in Penguins history.
The top line in the 2-1 shootout win had Sidney Crosby centering Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin (Fedotenko is Malkin's regular linemate). The other lines had rookie Mark Letestu filling in for Staal between Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, and Craig Adams with Mike Rupp and Nick Johnson.
There was one little kink with Malkin and Staal on the ice together -- Malkin accidentally got his stick up in the second period and gave Staal a small cut near the inner corner of his right eye. Staal shrugged it off after the game.
Staal had a strong game, finishing with four shots, another four that missed the net, and leading the game with six hits. Malkin had three shots. Dupuis had three shots and three hits.
"We had some good chances, and Jordan didn't score, but I hope he scores [today against Buffalo]," Malkin said.
Like Malkin, Staal liked the way the line played, even if Malkin wasn't in his natural position.
"It felt good playing with [Malkin]," Staal said. "He's such a talented player, and he works so hard. You just try and find him, try to give him the puck and try to go to the net.
"I thought we played well together."
The teams matched each other well, but for anyone expecting the electricity these teams generated in the finals in 2008 (won by Detroit) and 2009 (won by the Penguins), well, it wasn't there. At least not during regulation, when the standing-room crowd was often hushed or given to polite applause.
"Maybe it wasn't as great of a game as the finals, but I think you still see two very competitive teams and two very even teams," Red Wings defenseman and captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "I think you saw two teams battling hard."
Or, as Staal described: "It's like a chess match out there with that team. You don't want to make too many mistakes. It's a lot of fun to play against that team."
The Penguins have rare consecutive home games, with Buffalo playing at Mellon Arena tonight, and it could be something of a replay of the Detroit matchup -- a tight game.
"Buffalo has a good goalie, [Ryan] Miller, who's playing real well, and I think it could be the same [type of] game," Malkin said.
The Penguins, in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 69 points, trail third-place Buffalo by two points, and the two teams often end up in close, evenly played games -- the Penguins hold a 20-18 goals edge over the past two seasons
"It's probably just the matchup because they're such a good team -- and so are we," Kennedy said. "Each team gets excited to play."
With his hometown Red Wings visiting Mellon Arena Sunday, Penguins first-year backup goaltender Brent Johnson was reminded of how difficult things are economically in Detroit.
"I hear reports, from my family included," Johnson said. "They all live around that area. Everything's just decimated. I have cousins who are out of work -- first she got laid off, then her husband got laid off, things like that. I heard resumes are going out in unbelievable numbers for one opening. It's really tough.
"The family's getting by, but there's never been tougher times. It's sad."
Kennedy and defenseman Alex Goligoski returned from short-term, undisclosed injuries, but forward Max Talbot sat out for the third time in four games because of what is believed to be a groin problem. ... Defenseman Sergei Gonchar played his 300th game as Penguin.
First Published February 1, 2010 12:00 am