Penguins Notebook: Malkin's line among league's best recently
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There's center Evgeni Malkin, the playmaker. Right winger Petr Sykora, the sniper. And left winger Ryan Malone, the big body in front of the net.
It's the Penguins' version of three-part harmony.
"We have a good mix of different things on the line, and right now it's just working," Malone said yesterday after practice at Southpointe.
It's a line that came together and jelled after center Sidney Crosby got hurt Jan. 18. It might be the top threesome in the NHL since then, playing five-on-five and often on the power play -- usually against opponents' top defensive pair.
- Matchup: Penguins at New York Rangers, 7:08 p.m. today, Madison Square Garden, New York.
- TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Ty Conklin for Penguins. Henrik Lundqvist for Rangers.
- Penguins: Have won three games in row by combined 18-6. ... F Jarkko Ruutu has 36 hits the past 14 games. ... F Max Talbot, at 23 points, is one shy of his career best.
- Rangers: Have lost past two after getting at least a point in 13 in row. ... Have 14 power-play goals in past 80 chances (17.5 percent). ... RW Jaromir Jagr has only one goal in past 8 games.
- Hidden stat: Six of Jordan Staal's past seven goals have come on the road.
Certainly, the three have been white hot this month. In seven games in March, Malkin has five goals, 13 points as he gives Washington's Alex Ovechkin a run for the scoring title with 97 points; Sykora has five goals, 10 points; and Malone has four goals, seven points.
That's 30 points in seven games among them, which rivals some stretches by Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, who were considered the top line earlier this season.
"If you look at Ottawa, those guys have been good all year," Malone said. "I think we're up there right now."
"You go through stretches in the season when the puck is coming to you and the puck is going in, and I feel like we've got it right now," said Sykora, who was named the NHL's second star of the week that ended Sunday. In two games, Sykora had three goals, including the two winners, and three assists.
"We've got something going together, but there's a lot of good lines in the league."
Sykora sat out practice to rest his sore but improved back.
"To play a game and be out there with those two guys and be on the power play and getting a chance to play the way I am right now, the pain goes away very quickly," Sykora said.
The fact that Ty Conklin stopped 43 of 44 shots Jan. 14 in a 4-1 win against the New York Rangers might have been a good enough reason for Penguins coach Michel Therrien to peg Conklin as the starter tonight.
Or the fact that he is 2-0 lifetime against the Rangers.
But there is another reason.
"This is the fathers' trip, and his dad flew from Alaska to see his son play," Therrien said.
A majority of the players have their fathers on the trip, which started Sunday for a 7-1 win at home against Philadelphia and ends tonight.
Last season, Therrien gave backup goaltender Jocelyn Thibault a start at Phoenix during the dads' trip. He stopped 22 shots in a 7-2 win.
"I think it's important we try to make it a family affair with our team," Therrien said.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins continue to thrive despite waves of call-ups by the parent Penguins.
The Baby Penguins have won eight games in a row and are in second place in the East Division of the American Hockey League at 40-24-0-3. They start a five-game homestand tomorrow against Lowell.
Winger Gary Roberts, coming off a broken leg and high ankle sprain, continues to practice without contact. ... Penguins rookie forward Chris Minard credits Rangers All-Star Scott Gomez for helping his development and convincing him he had the talent to reach the NHL when the two played on a line for the Alaska Aces in 2004-05. "It will be nice to see him and have a little laugh," Minard said. "He'll probably tell me, 'See, I told you.' " ... The Penguins' game March 30 at home against the Rangers will start at 12:30 p.m. and be televised by NBC.
First Published March 18, 2008 12:00 am