Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is not having his typical offensive outburst that Penguin fans are accustomed to. Malkin has struggled to find the back of the net, and although plenty of blame could go around for Geno’s struggles, a lack of consistent line mates might be the biggest reason for his offensive slump.
Good news for Malkin, and the Penguins fan base, is that help seems to be on the way. Currently, Malkin finds himself on a line with Jussi Jokinen and the “flavor of the week” on the other side. He has played with Beau Bennett, James Neal, Chuck Kobasew, Jayson Megna and even Craig Adams.
Trying to compare Sidney Crosby‘s offensive numbers and Malkin’s is unfair, though. Crosby’s line along side of Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz is a constant in the lineup that is rarely ever altered. Malkin’s line mates have resembled a turnstile.
More good news came from Penguins camp recently. Former first-round pick Bennett is nearing his return to the lineup after suffering a lower body injury in mid-October. The best news was the fact that 40-goal scorer Neal has finally started skating again. Albeit skating by himself, this is the first mention of Neal back on the ice since his upper body injury in early October.
The health and comeback of Bennett and Neal give the Penguins tremendous options. Malkin seems to mesh well with Jokinen, and it would be expected that Neal would fill out the other spot on that line when he becomes healthy. Bennett should be able to anchor down the second line and provide greater offensive threats on the third line with Brandon Sutter.
Malkin’s production should increase with these missing parts of the puzzle finally returning. Malkin is in one of the greatest goal-scoring slumps of his career. Malkin has been scoreless in eight-consecutive games. The only longer streaks of his career without a goal were in the 2008-09 season (10 games without a goal) and in 2009-10 (11 games without a goal). Malkin has scored three goals and 10 assists in 15 games this season, and those are hardly the numbers of an NHL superstar.
The return of some of Malkin’s wingers will certainly help get him back on track, but in the meantime, he needs to prove his worth and start finding the back of the net.