Malkin, Penguins bludgeon Coyotes 6-1; Crosby extends points streak to 21 games

It looks like a little breather did Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins a lot of good.

Geno sat out a few games with a banged up knee and he suddenly looks like a changed man. Actually, scratch that; he looks like the Malkin of old. You know: the one whose superlative talents prompted Crosby haters to say that “Sidney isn’t even the best player on his own team.”

Since returning to action from that injury, Malkin is chipping in at an impressive pace. The talented Russian scored two goals and three assists in this game, giving him a three game points streak with five goals and three assists for eight points in that small span.

The time off clearly benefited Malkin, but Pittsburgh played like a team that was well-rested too. After reeling off an outstanding 12-game winning streak, the Penguins dropped back-to-back games to the Flyers and Rangers on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Like a banged up NFL team getting a perfectly timed bye week, the Pens fired 38 shots on net and chased Jason LaBarbera from the Phoenix net.

Penguins 6, Phoenix 1

I decided to discuss Malkin’s hot return first because Sidney Crosby’s continued success almost makes me sound like a broken record. He extended his career-high points streak to 21 games with one goal and two assists against the helpless Coyotes.

Crosby now has a nice, clean run in that 21-game span: 21 goals and 21 assist for 42 points (for exactly two points per game). He now has 27 goals and 30 assists for 57 points on the season.

Fun facts: Dany Heatley is the only player with a longer points streak (22 games) in the post-lockout era while Mario Lemieux is the only Penguin with a longer streak all-time, although his two longest streaks will be tough to match at 28 and 46 games.

Marc-Andre Fleury continued his own hot streak (although he lost his winning streak) by earning a win with 26 for 27 save performance. LaBarbera was pulled for Matt Climie, who allowed one goal on 16 shots.

The Penguins still trail the Flyers (who were flattened by the Florida Panthers 5-0 tonight) by three points, so this wasn’t one of those nights in which the Atlantic Division power shifted. Still, it’s clear that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are going to duke it out for the top spot in the division for quite some time.

If Malkin can spell the better-than-Crosby on occasion, it’s going to be difficult for the Pronger-less Flyers to hold the Penguins off.

Bolts re-sign Sustr — one year, $1.95 million

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Tampa Bay shored up some blueline depth on Monday, agreeing to terms with Andrej Sustr on a one-year, $1.95 million extension.

Sustr, 26, appeared in 80 games for the Bolts last season, matching Braydon Coburn for most played among defensemen. Prior to the campaign, he represented the Czechs at the World Cup of Hockey.

A restricted free agent, Sustr gets a pay bump from the $1.45 million he made annually on his last deal. There’s a good chance he’ll see an increased role next year, especially after the Lightning lost Jason Garrison to Vegas at the expansion draft. It also remains to be seen if GM Steve Yzerman will bring back depth blueliner Luke Witkowski, an unrestricted free agent.

That said, Sustr could still be pushed for minutes.

The 6-foot-7, 220-pounder might face a challenge from the likes of Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek and Mikhail Sergachev, the prized youngster acquired from Montreal in the Jonathan Drouin trade.

Sabres hire Sexton, Greeley as assistant GMs

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It was reported Saturday and made official today — Randy Sexton is joining the Buffalo Sabres as an assistant general manager. He will also serve as GM of the AHL’s Rochester Americans.

Also joining the Sabres as assistant GM is Steve Greeley, who spent the past two seasons as assistant director of player personnel with the New York Rangers.

“Randy and I developed a positive working relationship during our time in Pittsburgh and I think his experience and insight will be advantageous for our front office,” said Sabres GM Jason Botterill in a release. “In Steve, we have hired a talented hockey executive who will offer unique insight to our organization. They both have experience at all levels of the game and we think they will be valuable assets for the Buffalo Sabres moving forward.”

Sexton’s job with Rochester will be especially important for what Botterill is trying to do with the Sabres.

“I think one of the successes of the organization that I’m coming from is the relationship between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh,” Botterill said when he was hired in May. “We want to re-strengthen the relationship with Rochester and Buffalo.”

The last two years, Sexton has been the Penguins’ director of amateur scouting.

Report: Elliott making ‘tentative’ plans to live in Winnipeg

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The talk of Brian Elliott joining the Jets isn’t going away.

This morning, Rick Ralph of TSN 1290 tweeted that Elliott has “been making tentative accommodation plans for Winnipeg.”

The 32-year-old goalie is an unrestricted free agent, and the Jets’ goaltending was once again a sore spot last season.

“We’re going to a take a look at whatever is available to us and if there’s a good opportunity there that can help us, we’ll jump at it,” GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said Saturday at the draft, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “We’ve got a list of names lined up to reach out to their representatives and see if we’re a fit for them and as far as they want to consider us.”

Read more: Is Brian Elliott a fit for Winnipeg

The Jets have Michael Hutchinson under contract for one more year before he can become unrestricted.

Connor Hellebuyck, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent. The Jets are still high on him, but perhaps rushed him into the No. 1 job last year.

“We want forward progress for the team,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “Either Connor or Michael has to step up on that or we’ve got to get some help for those guys.”

Elliott, of course, had a tough first year in Calgary. The Flames then went a different way by acquiring Mike Smith from Arizona.

‘That’s definitely a huge option for us’: Brian Boyle wants to go back to Tampa

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Brian Boyle spent almost three full years with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at last March’s trade deadline.

The veteran center liked his stint in Tampa so much that he’s willing to go back there when he becomes a free agent in less than week.

“We love Tampa,” said Boyle, per the Tampa Bay Times. “If Tampa wanted to work out a deal, that’s definitely a huge option for us. That’s something that I’ve kind of always thought about. I haven’t closed the door on anything.”

Boyle enjoyed quite a bit of success with the Bolts. During his time there, he scored at least 13 goals in each of his three seasons, which isn’t bad considering he was more of a bottom-six player when he was there.

It’s unclear if the Bolts would be willing to take him back at this point, but a big factor will likely be his contract demands.

“(Tampa) is a great place to be, great place to start a family. And, honestly, we’ll see what they say. You want to be wanted. That’s the other part.”

The Lightning have just over $23 million in cap space right now. That seems like a good amount, but they still have to sign Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr. It’s also pretty clear that they’re in the market for a top four defenseman, and that won’t come cheap. As of right now, they only have three blue liners on one-way contracts.

The 32-year-old is coming off a contract that paid him $2 million per season. He should be able to fetch a higher number if he hits the open market.