Evgeni Malkin is the NHL’s First Star of the Week

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After scoring five goals and putting forth a masterful performance on national television, Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin has been named the NHL’s first star of the week.

The honor is becoming old hat for Malkin. He’s been named a star in three of the last six weeks (third star on Dec. 19 and Jan. 16, first star this week) and was December’s first star of the month as well. He now has 35 points in his last 23 games — including three points in a 4-3 OT decision over Washington on NBC on Sunday — and is at the forefront of the Hart Trophy race, with his play being a major catalyst in Pittsburgh’s recent turnaround. The Pens have won six straight and are now just six points back of the Rangers for top spot in the Atlantic Division.

Second star of the week went to Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell. He continued his banner campaign with a two-goal effort against New Jersey and a natural hat-trick against the Bruins. Hartnell is now fifth in the NHL in goals, with 25 (his previous career-high was 30) and leads the league in power-play goals, with 13. It’s probably safe to assume that, should the NHL need a capable replacement for the 2012 NHL All-Star game, Hartnell is at the top of the list.

Third star of the week went to Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov. He allowed just two goals in three starts last week, posting a 17-save shutout of the Capitals, then stopped 40 of 41 shots against the Flyers and 32 of 33 against the Hurricanes. He’s riding a four-game winning streak and has a .965 save percentage over that time.