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Penguins come to defense of slumping Evgeni Malkin |

Penguins come to defense of slumping Evgeni Malkin

| Friday, December 14, 2018 12:54 p.m.
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin (71) leans on the boards in front of his bench after Philadelphia Flyers’ Jakub Voracek scored an empty-net goal during the third period to cap a 4-2 Flyers win in an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will come into Friday night’s game with the Boston Bruins with a slumping superstar center on their second line.

Evgeni Malkin has one goal, three assists and a minus-9 rating in his past nine games. He has scored one even-strength goal in his last 20 games. He was a minus-4 in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Geno tends to be a streaky guy, and sometimes all it takes is one goal and then he’s off to building momentum again,” coach Mike Sullivan said optimistically. “I think part of it is just simplifying his whole overall game. If he does that, he’s going to be fine.”

What does Sullivan mean when he says Malkin needs to simplify his game?

“Slowing his skating down and supporting the breakout. Stopping on pucks. When he has an opportunity to shoot the puck, shoot the puck. Don’t look for the next play,” Sullivan said. “We think he’ll come out of it.”

Malkin’s longtime teammates came to his defense after morning skate as well.

Sidney Crosby said there’s no point singling out any particular player for the team’s struggles. He also noted that Wednesday’s loss stopped a run of improving play that’s been going on for a few weeks.

“We’re all in this together. I don’t think you can point the finger at one guy,” Crosby said. “We’re right there. We’re two points from a playoff spot. I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button. I think we’ve got some important games here. We’ve got to do something with them.”

Kris Letang said Malkin shouldn’t be defined by his stats.

“He’s playing hard,” Letang said. “He’s facing a tough matchup every night. It’s the same for all our top guys. They’re all facing (significant) adversity every night. It’s not about the scoring sheet sometimes. It’s what you bring in the room and on the ice.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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