The Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to get rolling and so is Evgeni Malkin. Their next attempt at keeping the surge going will be without Sidney Crosby.
Entering Tuesday's visit to the New York Rangers, the Penguins are 4-1-1 in their last six games and Crosby will miss at least the next two games.
Malkin will play his fifth game since returning from missing nearly a month with a lower-body injury. The Penguins are 2-1-1 since he returned, but he has significantly contributed to consecutive comeback wins over the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks.
On Thursday, the Penguins stormed back from a three-goal deficit and beat the Islanders in overtime when Malkin scored the game-tying goal and had an assist on the second goal of the comeback. On Saturday, the Penguins overcame a two-goal deficit at home and Malkin notched assists on goals by Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust before Pittsburgh scored twice in the shootout to get a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks.
"He's such a dynamic player offensively," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He has a tendency to want to make plays all the time. Sometimes you have to make simple plays.
"We're trying to stay out of his way offensively and allow him to act on his instincts. But he's got to have some diligence about his game. I think that's the biggest thing that Geno has done since he's come back."
While Malkin hopes to continue producing clutch plays such as key assists, the Penguins hope Crosby's injury is not long term. Crosby exited Saturday's game in the third period and if he misses any extended time, he would become the seventh forward to get injured this season and could further test Pittsburgh's depth.
"You certainly find out about your depth out of necessity," Sullivan said. "I think guys have stepped up that we've put in the lineup and they've done a terrific job, whether it's our roster players who are playing a more significant role."
The Rangers enter their first meeting with Pittsburgh 5-2-1 in their last eight games but come off a disappointing outcome on Sunday. After sweeping a back-to-back with Detroit and Carolina, the Rangers squandered three one-goal leads and settled for a point with a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers scored five goals for the fourth time this season but lost for the first time when doing so, mostly because of sloppiness according to coach David Quinn, whose team is 6-1-1 when scoring at least four goals so far.
"As has happened through the course of this short season, when we get some goals, all of a sudden our whole mindset tends to change," Quinn said. "We just have to focus on playing the right way and being committed to playing defense."
While the Rangers hope their defense improves, they hope a few players can continue their rolls.
Panarin and Strome are helping the Rangers compensate for the absence of Mika Zibanejad, who will miss at least three more game. Zibanejad has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury since taking a hit from Boston's Patrice Bergeron on Oct. 27.
The Penguins have gained a point in the last six meetings (4-0-2) with the Rangers. Pittsburgh also is 11-3-2 in the last 16 meetings and 7-1-2 in its last 10 visits to New York.
--Field Level Media