Pittsburgh Penguins give thanks for Evgeni Malkin

Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks and saying what we are thankful for.

After a slow start, Geno is firing on all cylinders

After a slow start, Geno is firing on all cylinders

And Pittsburgh is thankful to have Evgeni Malkin and thankful for his productivity.

On Tuesday morning, the NHL announced that Malkin was the ‘Second Star’ of the month. Malkin was outstanding throughout the entire month.

Malkin finished the month leading all NHL players in both assists (21) and points (25) – with his 21 assists the most he’s recorded in a calendar month and the most any NHL player has amassed since Wayne Gretzky did so with the Los Angeles Kings in January 1996.

Malkin’s scoring spree in November allowed him to rise from 51st (tied) in the NHL scoring race on the morning of Nov. 1 to second in the league, one point behind teammate Sidney Crosby, by the final day of the month.

Malkin, the NHL leader with 28 assists, enters December with 35 points (7 G, 28 A), one fewer than Crosby’s total of 36 (13 G, 23 A).

Malkin finished November riding a season-high eight-game assist/point streak (4 G, 13 A-17 PTS). His eight-game assist streak is the longest in the NHL this year. Malkin began November with assists in six straight games (8 total) between Nov. 1-15, making him the only NHL player with two such streaks this season.

Malkin, who was NHL ‘First Star’ for each of the final two weeks in November, notched at least one point in 14 of Pittsburgh’s 15 games last month. He had eight multiple-point games.

However, it has been a great month for Pittsburgh’s stars. . Chris Kunitz has 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 28 games with six points in his past four. James Neal has 13 points in his past seven.

What is the key to Geno’s productivity? The return of James Neal.

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Can Geno and Neal keep up the productivity?

Can Geno and Neal keep up the productivity?

After returning to the line up in mid-November due to injury, Neal did not look like his old self.  Neal and Malkin are now meshing together entering the month of December.  December and January will be two key months for the Penguins as they will look to get ahead in the division before breaking for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

These two months will not only be big for Pittsburgh but for certain players who will look to stand out for the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Those players include: wingers James Neal, and Chris Kunitz, and defenseman Paul Martin.

Unfortunately for Martin, he’s still out with a fractured tibula for 4-6 weeks, and could impact the decision of Team U.S.A.’s roster.

Kunitz makes for a worthy candidate for Sochi for Team Canada because of his familiarity on the first line with center Sidney Crosby.  Neal on the other hand will have to fight for a position on the roster especially after the injuries he’s been battling.

Pittsburgh starts December tonight facing the New York Islanders.  Pittsburgh is the highest scoring team in the eastern conference with 86 goals. The Islanders contend with the high-flying Penguins coming off a 4-10-1 November and riding a six-game winless streak during which they’ve been outscored 25-11.

A good sign for Pittsburgh was having winger Chuck Kobasew skated on the ice for the second straight day.

Currently, Pittsburgh is first in the Metropolitan Division with 87 points, and is one point behind the Boston Bruins for best team in the eastern conference.

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