Evgeni Malkin

A motivated Evgeni Malkin is a scary, MVP-threat Evgeni Malkin

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What we’ve seen out of Evgeni Malkin the past two seasons has been, well, underwhelming. The past two seasons, with some help from an ailing knee, he’s scored 114 points in 110 games. Three seasons ago, Malkin put up 113 alone in the 2008-2009 Stanley Cup-winning season.

We know Malkin is a dominating force on the ice but the nagging knee stuff made us forget just how good he is capable of being. Thanks to Rob Rossi of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review we find out that the monstrous play we’ve seen out of Malkin in the preseason is very likely going to continue on into the regular season thanks to Malkin finding his motivation to win the Stanley Cup again.

He senses that Penguins teammate and fans are calling for this, his sixth season, to be a ″comeback year.″

This is no comeback, though.

″I hope people understand this is (a) new me,″ Malkin said. ″I’ve changed my workouts because maybe I was lazy before. Maybe I just played hockey, and that (was) good enough, but (there) is more for me to do.

″My motivation now is very good.″

While the Penguins aren’t sure when Sidney Crosby is going to rejoin the team on the ice, a rejuvenated Malkin could make his absence a moot point for the time being. When Malkin is healthy he’s a dynamic scorer with top five talent. Remember, when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009 it was Malkin, not Crosby or Marc-Andre Fleury, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. While opponents loaded up against Crosby to stop him, Malkin took advantage of secondary defenders being unable to keep up with him.

If Malkin can do the kind of work he’s done in the preseason against opponents that have made the cut and stuck in the NHL, expect to see him make a run to the top of everyone’s list as a Hart Trophy candidate.

Video: On Hockey Day in America, Auston Matthews did this . . .

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11:  Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.

Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.

On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.

As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.

Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages

Video: After a slow start, Evander Kane is on a roll for the Sabres

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For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.

Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.

He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.

(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)

Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Sharks

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 9: Dominic Moore #28 of the Boston Bruins defends Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks during the first period at TD Garden on February 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins are back from their bye week, looking to continue a three-game winning streak since Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach from Claude Julien.

The Bruins can extend their streak Sunday, when they visit the San Jose Sharks (8:30 p.m. ET). You can check out the game on NBCSN or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

The NHL’s bye week experiment is still a work in progress

Pre-game reading: Are the Bruins and Avalanche on verge of trade?

Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions

Video: Trouba called for a hit to the head on Stone

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Jacob Trouba could be getting a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone.

The incident occurred during the third period of Sunday’s game, as Stone was passing the puck after he entered the zone. Trouba stepped up and delivered a high hit, resulting in only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

Stone, who dealt with a concussion that was reported in September, remained down on the ice before eventually going to the dressing room.

As you can see from the video, Senators coach Guy Boucher was furious officials on the ice decided this was only worth a minor for Trouba.