When the Rangers face off with the Penguins in Pittsburgh tonight, they will not have to contend with superstar center Sidney Crosby, who remains sidelined with a concussion, but they will have to try and contain Evgeni Malkin, who leads the NHL with 71 points.
Malkin has put forth an MVP-worthy campaign by scoring 32 goals and adding 39 assists through 52 games this season, helping the Pens survive---and thrive---with a fifth-place seeding at present in the Eastern Conference. Malkin, who has also taken a whopping 237 shots this season (second only to teammate James Neal's 245), has three-point lead over Philly's Claude Giroux in his quest for a second Art Ross Trophy.
Needless to say, trying to shut down Malkin will be a major priority for the Rangers tonight. The question is: how can that be accomplished?
"He is one of the top players in the league, skill-wise and ability-wise," Malkin's friend and fomer teammate, Ruslan Fedotenko said. "Some nights you get him at his best of times, and maybe some nights you get him on maybe his off night. You need to be aware of him on the ice, always realize what kind of player he is. But we have to stick to our game plan and make sure we are ready to play. You can't just be ready to play against the top players, though. Even a third-liner or fourth-liner can hurt you. That's why it's important we stick to our game plan."
Even without Crosby the Penguins are an explosive club---having scored 23 more goals than the Rangers this season---and the club has two 30+ goal scorers in Malkin and Neal already.
"It's always fun playing those guys," offered Marc Staal. "It's exciting to play against (brother) Jordan, so we'll see if I run into him on the ice at all. But it's a big challenge, as well, against the Penguins. It always is."
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