Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan says forward Evgeni Malkin is getting better and better as he plays more games following a lengthy injury layoff.
The Penguins, 13/1 to win the Stanley Cup in 2021/22, had a goal and two assists from the 35-year-old to beat the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
Malkin missed the Penguins' first 34 games of the season following knee surgery in the off-season. He returned on 11th January with a goal and two assists, and Sullivan believes he has only improved since.
The centreman has scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) during a seven-game point streak and has 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 20 games since his come-back.
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Malkin and Sullivan have won the Stanley Cup together twice with the Penguins (2016, 2017), the second and third successes for Malkin, who also lifted the championship in 2007.
Individually, he has won two Art Ross trophies as the NHL's leading point-scorer, a Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player, a Ted Lindsay Award winner as the best player as voted by his peers and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP.
Over 16 seasons with Pittsburgh, Malkin has amassed 1,128 points (434 goals, 694 assists) in 960 regular season games.
In 170 playoff appearances he has 174 points (64 goals, 110 assists).
The Penguins (34-1-8) sit second in the Metropolitan Division.
Sullivan said about Malkin after the victory over the Lightning: "I thought that was 'Geno's' best game of the year to this point. I've felt like he's getting better and better with each game.
"Tonight, I thought he was in beast mode."
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