Atlantic: Penguins duo in high gear heading into playoffs

By Ian Altenbaugh

 

Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby is heading into the NHL playoffs on an offensive roll following a 10-point week (courtesy of

Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

There are some familiar faces in this week's three stars. Penguins stars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby continued to put on a clinic, combining for five goals and 12 assists over their last four games. Not to be outdone by his rivals, Philadelphia Flyers star Claude Giroux was almost as prolific, notching a goal and six assists in four games. The Flyers and Penguins will face off on Saturday in what will be a first round playoff preview.

First Star: Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins – While there were many high profile performances this past week, nobody came close to managing the three goals and seven assists Crosby did in his past four games. This most recent offensive explosion started on last Friday when Crosby managed a goal and three assists against the Buffalo Sabres. The point spree carried over through the week, with two more multi-point games against Philadelphia and Boston, then an assist last night against the New York Rangers. On the season, Crosby has seven goals, 28 assists, and 35 points through 21 games, a 1.67 point-per-game pace that leads the NHL by an exceptional margin. Since he has returned from a concussion in March, the Penguins captain has five goals and 18 assists in 13 games.

Second Star: Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins – Not to be outshone by his teammate, Evgeni Malkin also had a wildly prolific week, recording two goals and five assists in his last four games. He established a new career high in goals when he notched his 48th and 49th of the season, and all but assured he will win the second Art Ross trophy of his career. Malkin currently leads the NHL in points (107), shots on net (337), and is second in the league in goals (49) and points-per-game (1.45).

Third Star: Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers – The brilliant Flyers playmaker had a standout week, managing a goal and six assists in four games, including three-point games against the division rival Penguins and Rangers. Centering a line with wingers Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell, Giroux has set career highs this season in goals (28), assists (65), points (93), points-per-game (1.21) and shots on goal (242). He is ranked second in the league in points and has a league-leading 38 points on the powerplay.
Atlantic Division Notes
New Jersey Devils -
The Devils 2-1 victory over the Red Wings last night was the first time since 1996 the Devils have beat the Red Wings on the road. New Jersey had lost their nine prior visits to the Joe Louis Arena. Martin Brodeur hit the 30-win mark for the 14th time in his illustrious career. The storied goaltender is the NHL career leader in wins (655), minutes played (69,968), saves (27,281), and shutouts (119).

New York Islanders – Winger Michael Grabner scored twice last night in a 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Grabner managed only 19 goals this season after producing 34 last year, his rookie season. P.A. Parenteau sprained his ankle last night against the Jets and will likely be out of the lineup for the Islanders season finale Saturday against the Blue Jackets.

New York Rangers – Derek Stepan was the recipient of a knee-on-knee collision with Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik in the Rangers 5-2 loss against the Penguins last night. Though the collision appeared incidental, as Orpik committed to a hit and Stepan tried to step around him, Rangers coach John Tortorella was livid and had choice words for the Penguins organization after the game. "It's one of the most arrogant organizations in the league," Tortorella seethed, "They whine about this stuff all the time and look what happens. It's ridiculous, but they'll whine about something else over there, won't they? Starting with their two (expletive) stars."

Philadelphia Flyers – Rookie blueliner Marc-Andre Bourdon figured into both of the Flyers goals in their 2-1 win over Buffalo. Bourdon has two goals and an assist in his last three games. The Flyers will get a preview of the first round of the playoffs when they close out their season Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins scratched James Neal, Matt Niskanen, and Steve Sullivan in last night's 5-2 win against the Rangers. All apparently had minor injuries but are expected to be ready for the playoffs. Center Joe Vitale, who took a Zdeno Chara shot off the face Tuesday, appeared no worse for wear last night, recording a hit in 11:28 of ice time against the Rangers.

 

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