Crosby, Malkin lead Pens to East’s top spot (for now)


The Pittsburgh Penguins limped into Monday’s game with injured defensemen (add Brooks Orpik to the growing list) and key sniper James Neal suspended, but their biggest names still made it happen in a 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Evgeni Malkin scored and was a difference-maker in his return to action while Sidney Crosby notched an odd game-winner to eke out the Pens’ sixth straight home win:

Marc-Andre Fleury almost earned a shutout (and a rare goal for a goalie), settling for his 17th win of the 2013-14 season.

Curtis McElhinney obviously didn’t get the win, as the Blue Jackets allowed two goals after piling up two consecutive shutouts. Still, the journeyman goalie stopped 28 out of 30 shots, so there’s still reason to believe that he could help them survive Sergei Bobrovsky’s lengthy absence.

With this win, the Penguins have 43 standings points on the season, giving them the top spot in the East. Their buddies the Boston Bruins aren’t far behind, however, as they have 42 points and two games in hand (30 games played versus Pittsburgh’s 32).

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets find themselves outside of the playoff picture right now with a 12-15-3 record for 27 points.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?

Goalie nods: Jones makes Sharks debut against ex-Kings mates

Martin Jones
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News and notes from around the crease…

Jones goes for San Jose

Martin Jones, acquired by the Sharks this summer, will make his first regular-season start for the club tonight against his old team — the Los Angeles Kings.

Jones, 25, spent the last two years in L.A. as Jonathan Quick‘s understudy. He was flipped to Boston at the NHL Entry Draft, then shipped to San Jose. Sharks GM Doug Wilson wasted little time locking Jones in — signing him to a three-year, $9 million extension — and Jones wasted little time locking up the No. 1 gig, putting together a stellar preseason.

For the Kings, Quick will get the start in goal.

Markstrom out for Vancouver

Jacob Markstrom wasn’t scheduled to start for the Canucks tonight — No. 1 Ryan Miller is getting the call — but the Swedish ‘tender won’t even dress when his club takes on the Flames in Calgary.

Markstrom suffered a lower-body injury at practice this week and is being held out of tonight’s action. In his place, the Canucks called up AHL netminder Richard Bachman, who’ll serve as Miller’s backup.

For the Flames, Karri Ramo is the opening-night starter.


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