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.

On a new contract, Avs don’t dress Stuart in opener

DENVER, CO - MARCH 14:  Brad Stuart #17 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on as he skates against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on March 14, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Flames 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Brad Stuart wasn’t on the ice for the first game of his two-year, $7.2 million contract and it had nothing to do with his health.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy felt Stuart simply wasn’t one of the six best defensemen in training camp and consequently he wasn’t in the lineup, per the Denver Post.

“Things could change for the next game,” Roy offered. “Like I said (Wednesday), we’re going to use those eight D all year long. (Last night was) just the first game of the season.”

Perhaps, but it’s still a terrible indicator, especially given that Stuart will turn 36 on Nov. 6. Stuart is a veteran of over 1,000 games, but now the question is if he has enough left in the tank to provide Colorado with much value.

The Avalanche also scratched defenseman Brandon Gormley, who was acquired from the Coyotes in exchange for Stefan Elliott. The hope was that both players would benefit from the change in scenery. Gormley was taken with the 13th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but has only played in 32 career NHL games.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)