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No woes for Penguins' dynamic duo of Crosby and Malkin

| Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not enough room for Sid and Geno• That notion was quickly cast aside by Geno himself, who strongly dismissed the idea that one Penguins superstar can play better without the other around.

'It`s not true, for sure,' Malkin said. '• I like to play with Sid.'

The past four games certainly have much for Malkin to like and should help end any thoughts that his MVP-caliber season or scoring title lead couldn`t have happened with Sidney Crosby around.

Since Crosby returned March 15, Malkin has five goals and four assists, including a five-point night Tuesday against Winnipeg. As Malkin pointed out, Crosby assisted on one of his goals with a nifty pass.

"We know how to play with each other," Malkin said.

It just hasn't happened all that often lately. In the past two seasons — 161 games, counting the playoffs — the centers have shared the ice for just 48.

A season ago, when both had their campaigns cut short by injury, they played together in 36 games. In 12 games together this season, they've been dominant: Crosby has 21 points, Malkin 19.

"I don't know where it comes in that they can't play together," said Chris Kunitz, who has played wing for both. "Ever since I've been here, I haven't seen one iota of that. I think they both enjoy being with each other. ... They've already won a Stanley Cup together, and each won individual awards playing on the same team."

Malkin could win another trophy or two this season. He leads the NHL with 93 points, making him the favorite for the Art Ross, which goes to the top scorer. He has a nine-point lead entering tonight's game with Nashville at Consol Energy Center.

Nights like Tuesday — two goals and three assists — also could earn Malkin the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

"I'm not thinking about that," Malkin said. "I want a Stanley Cup this year. We have a good chance."

Malkin explained that Crosby's return only strengthens the team. As proof, Kunitz points to the second period against the Jets. Malkin's line had the puck when the Jets were called for a penalty, allowing Crosby to jump over the boards and join a six-on-five attack. Crosby subtly faked a shot from the slot and passed to Malkin, who scored from the right faceoff circle.

"When you try to shut down the one threat, the other guy is open," Kunitz said.

That was apparent on the power play, which has a new look since Crosby rejoined. Crosby typically starts near the blue line, filling Steve Sullivan's old role, but he and Malkin could move anywhere.

"I wouldn't want to have to go on the (penalty) kill against our power play right now," forward Matt Cooke said. "There is just so much movement."

Malkin and Crosby assisted on Tuesday's power-play goal by James Neal. It began with Crosby making a behind-the-back pass from the right faceoff circle to Malkin beside the net. Malkin slipped a quick pass through the crease to Neal near the other post.

"I have heard that (they can't play well together)," Neal said, "but I haven't seen it."

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