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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.

Report: Yes, Claude Julien’s job is in some danger with Bruins

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 12:  Head coach of the Boston Bruins Claude Julien looks on as he walks across the ice during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on December 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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After the Boston Bruins squandered a 3-0 lead against the Detroit Red Wings and ultimately lost 6-5 via a shootout, plenty of fans and commenters had enough. Many called for Claude Julien’s head.

They might not be alone.

During the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading on Thursday, Bob McKenzie didn’t say that Julien was definitely going to be fired, but he said there’s a “credible threat” to the long-standing Bruins bench boss’ job security.

The phrase “impending doom” came up, too.

So … yeah, it sure sounds like Julien is on thin ice.

McKenzie indicates that Julien should be behind the bench on Friday and could improve his situation if he reels off some wins. That’s where things get extra interesting.

The Bruins play three of their next four games and seven of their next nine contests at home. Most of those games are against playoff-caliber teams, however, so it wouldn’t necessarily be “easy.” Still, the opportunities are there for the Bruins to solidify their spot in the East playoff picture.

Still, it sure sounds like the margin of error is pretty small for Julien, just as it might be for Boston in this playoff race.

Want more coaching hot seat talk from McKenzie? He also discussed Paul Maurice’s situation with the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday:

Video: There was no stopping John Tavares on this goal

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New York Islanders fans probably needed a moment like this, even ones who are more than happy that Jack Capuano was let go.

It’s no surprise that John Tavares provided such a moment.

Watch in the video above as he makes an obscene move against Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, and then finishes with some really nifty timing. Wow.

Tavares now has 17 goals this season, reinforcing the thought that the team’s struggles aren’t on him.

Now catch up on all of the drama surrounding the team:

Bob McKenzie updates on the fuzzy future for the Isles

Liam McHugh grills Garth Snow on a variety of burning questions

Coyotes demote Duclair to AHL so he can ‘regain his scoring touch’

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 25: Anthony Duclair #10 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 25, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s been a tough season for both Anthony Duclair and the Arizona Coyotes. Even so, it’s still startling to see that he was demoted to the AHL on Thursday.

GM John Chayka explained the team’s logic for the demotion:

“Anthony is a good young player,” said Chayka. “Unfortunately, he has struggled this season. We felt this was a good time to send him to Tucson to work on a few things and hopefully regain his scoring touch. We hope to have him rejoin our team soon.”

Duclair’s been the subject of more than a few trade rumors, but this is probably the low point of a rough 2016-17 season for the 21-year-old.

It’s worth taking a second to consider the very different luck Duclair’s experienced in his breakout season last year vs. this one.

His shooting percentage was 19 in 2015-16, helping him score 20 goals on just 105 shots. By comparison, he’s only converted on 5.2 percent of his shots this year, nabbing three on 58.

In other words, Duclair’s work is probably somewhere between those extremes … but he’s also at that age where a player can make big leaps forward. So, it’s understandable that the Coyotes want to try to repair their prospect’s confidence, and it’s also reasonable that other teams might believe that they can get more out of him.

A trip to the AHL really might be good for his confidence but … still, wow.

The good news and the bad news for Roman Josi

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Roman Josi told Swiss Hockey News.ch that he suffered a concussion from that Anton Blidh hit you can see in the video above, according to a translation passed along by the Tennessean.

So, that’s the bad news for the Nashville Predators. The good is that he also told that outlet that he might be able to return for the Preds sometime next week.

Josi, 26, has dealt with concussion issues before, making this report a concern for the long-term. Still, the possibility of a return so soon is definitely a positive.

Here’s what the next week and change looks like for Nashville:

Tonight: at Flames
Friday: at Oilers
Sunday: at Wild
Tuesday, Jan. 24: vs. Sabres
Thursday: vs. Blue Jackets

The Predators aren’t out of the West picture altogether, but they need to make the most of their opportunities. Much like the Bolts with Victor Hedman, Nashville’s hanging in there OK without one of their key guys, but every point counts. Getting Josi back would be huge.