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Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun are back to debate! Today, they look at a few elite stars' status heading into tonight's action:
Burnside: Good day, my friend. We're going to have to start renting out our services to NHL GMs and coaches after our discussion of Marian Gaborik's scoring woes sparked a four-goal, one-assist performance in the Rangers' 7-0 win against Toronto on Wednesday night. I won't be surprised if we hear from Kings GM Dean Lombardi regarding Anze Kopitar next. But I digress. Again.
Interesting night ahead in Toronto as Jean-Sebastien Giguere is scheduled to face his old mates from Anaheim, but the real Ducks story is Corey Perry, who is lighting it up in the absence of longtime linemate Ryan Getzlaf (sinus fractures).
LeBrun: Jonas Hiller obviously deserves a ton of credit for providing Vezina-type goaltending in the Ducks' net. But you're right, we can't forget about Perry. Chatting with Ducks coach Randy Carlyle yesterday here in Toronto, he said Perry has taken his game to another level this season. Because of that, Carlyle has used him in more situations.
"He enjoys his role and he gets major minutes, and we've expanded his role a little bit more this year to penalty killing," Carlyle said. "He enjoys that, he gets on the ice more. He plays four-on-four. He plays the power play. He takes a beating in front of the net and plays those tough minutes. So you have to reward those players and that's what he's getting, and he's getting recognition [around the league] because he's deserved it."
To me, Perry's confidence grew after playing for Canada's 2010 Olympic champion team. He returned to the NHL believing he belonged among the world's elite and has carried that into this season. Speaking of the world's elite, a couple of them are missing from the Pittsburgh lineup tonight.
Burnside: Indeed. The Penguins will take the ice this evening in New Jersey without captain Sidney Crosby and without Evgeni Malkin, both of whom are out with injuries. According to our good friends at Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time since Malkin entered the league in 2006-07 that both players will be out of the Pittsburgh lineup.
Reports out of Pittsburgh indicate Malkin is nursing a sore knee and is considered day to day. No truth to the rumor Malkin is declining to attend next week's All-Star Game unless he's made a captain or gets to drive the Zamboni. But seriously, the Penguins are riding a three-game winning streak and seemed to have found a bit of a groove without Crosby, who is still suffering concussion-related symptoms.
The Penguins won't be taking any chances with Malkin, who has struggled offensively this season. He hasn't scored in six straight games and the Pens will need him at peak performance if they're to make another long playoff run.
LeBrun: If I were the Penguins, I'd rest Malkin through the All-Star break. Pittsburgh has built up a nice cushion in terms of points in the standings. No reason to risk his health. Same with Crosby. Which of course means both Pittsburgh centers could possibly miss the All-Star Game, as could Edmonton winger Ales Hemsky (concussion).
NHL executive Brendan Shanahan may need to phone in three replacements. It's never easy at this point because those possible replacement players may have already made plans for that weekend.
Before I leave, I wanted to mention Curtis Glencross' push from behind on Minnesota's Clayton Stoner last night. Brutal hit. Stupid. Don't be surprised if the NHL takes a look at it today.
OK, pal ... I'm off to Vancouver tomorrow morning for a few days to profile the Canucks, while you're traveling to Denver to check in on the run-and-gun Avalanche. Talk to you next week!