Tony Medina/Icon SMI)
There were many excellent individual performances in the Atlantic Division over the week of February 24th thru March 1st, though none stood out more than Art Ross contenders Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux, who combined for 11 points over the last week.
First Star: Claude Giroux, C/RW, Philadelphia Flyers – Giroux has managed five points in his last three games while seeing a lot of time lately with Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell, including a three-assist outing against the New York Islanders Thursday night. Playing top minutes for the top offense in the league, Giroux has been the straw that stirs the Flyers drink for much of the season . He has been playing some of his best hockey of late, posting five goals and 15 assists in his last 14 games. With 75 points on the season, Giroux has almost surpassed last season’s totals and has staked out a claim as one of the premiere playmakers in the NHL. He is third in the league in points, second in assists, and leads the NHL in power play assists.
Second Star: Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins – Even by his lofty standards this season, Malkin has had a particularly distinguished week. He netted four goals and added two assists in his last three games and is now on a six-game, 10 point hot streak. Last Saturday, Malkin torched the Tampa Bay Lightning for three goals and an assist while playing only 13:29. Despite the diminished playing time, Malkin still generated five shots and looked dominant every time he touched the puck. He followed that performance up with a strong game last Sunday against Columbus where he scored a goal and managed seven shots on net, helping a tired Penguins team finally find their legs in the third period. His point production aside, Malkin has vastly improved in the smaller aspects of his game, becoming very good in faceoffs, playing physical consistently, and for the most part avoiding bad penalties.
Third Star: Josh Bailey, LW, New York Islanders – Since returning from back spasms on February 28th, Josh Bailey has looked solid playing on the third line with Casey Cizikas and David Ullstrom. He seems to have found immediate chemistry alongside the two rookies, producing three goals in his last two games, including two in last night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Taken ninth overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, Bailey will likely not develop into a prolific offensive player. He instead appears to have developed into one capable of playing a solid, two-way game, and has become a reliable penalty killer.
Atlantic Division Notes
New Jersey Devils – The New Jersey Devils lost in overtime against the Boston Bruins last night, dropping them to 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, though still just three points out of the fourth playoff seed.
New York Rangers – Captain Ryan Callahan missed last night’s 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, the first game he has missed this season. Callahan suffered a bruised foot from an Ilya Kovalchuk shot three days prior. He is considered day-to-day.
New York Islanders – The Islanders lost for the first time in Philadelphia this season, losing to the Flyers 6-3 on Thursday night. Goalie Anders Nilsson was recalled Thursday from the AHL; he is 10-0-1 in his last 11 starts for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Philadelphia Flyers – James vanRiemsdyk will be out indefinitely after breaking his foot blocking a shot in the first period of last night’s win against the Islanders.
Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins signed OHL forward Adam Payerl to an entry-level contract. In his third season in the OHL, the 21-year-old forward has 20 goals, 25 assists, and 104 penalty minutes. Defenseman Kris Letang reported to the Penguins medical staff Thursday that he was experiencing the symptoms of a concussion.
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