Originally created 11/05/06

Malkin already proving he has tools to belong



It took less than a month for Evgeni Malkin to garner his first NHL award.

Sure he was the rookie of the month for October, but it only took him one day of November to do something that hadn't been done in nearly a century.

The latest Pittsburgh Penguins phenom has taken the league by storm, capturing player of the month honors despite dressing for only five games. On Wednesday, Malkin became the first player since the National Hockey League started in 1917 to notch goals in his first six games.

His second goal in that win over Los Angeles was the difference in a 4-3 overtime victory.

By then he had already wowed former Pittsburgh resident and current Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

"I'm still an NBA junkie first and foremost, but a longtime NHL fan as well," Cuban said in his blog this week after attending a Penguins game. "When the Mavs were in Pittsburgh to play the Cavs in a preseason game, I snuck into Mellon Arena and managed to catch the last period of the Pens-Devils game.

"What I saw in just one period in Pittsburgh was the most exciting glimpse of NHL greatness I have ever seen."

Malkin punctuated his arrival in the NHL with a spectacular move that any seasoned veteran would have been proud of. In his fourth game in North America, Malkin threaded and shredded the New Jersey Devils defense, getting around Brad Lukowich and Colin White and beating goalie Martin Brodeur with a brilliant backhander.

A true SportsCenter moment for a 20-year-old player who doesn't speak the same language as his linemate and superstar predecessor Sidney Crosby.

While learning English, he also has to get used to playing on the wing instead of in the middle. The 19-year-old Crosby has that part of the ice covered for now.

"He has a great view on the ice. He's always going to find you with his great passes," Malkin said through interpreter George Birman. "It's still a little bit difficult because I'm not used to playing on the wing. But I think it's going to take a little bit of time. I think I will play my role better and better because it's easy to play with a player like Sidney Crosby."

SPLITTING TIME: Everything around the Buffalo Sabres has been just about perfect - even the goaltending situation that turned dicey over the summer.

That's when No. 2 goalie Martin Biron asked to be traded away from the team. It didn't happen, and he is again paired in the nets with Ryan Miller as the Sabres look to improve on a season that saw them fall one win short of the Stanley Cup finals.

Biron split the duties last season, playing in 35 games and getting the bulk of the work when Miller was sidelined for 18 games with a broken thumb.

Even with the missed time, Miller finished in the NHL's top 10 in wins (30), goals-against average (2.60) and save percentage (.914). That earned him a three-year deal with the Sabres and prevented a possible training camp holdout.

It also left Biron as the Buffalo backup again.

"Marty is a great guy," Miller said. "I understand he wants to play, and I think that he's in a situation where this summer he just kind of took time to voice his opinion, and you can respect that as a player.

"But I think he knows the amount of fun we have here in Buffalo."

WEB TIME: Now you can Google the goalie.

The NHL and the popular search engine company joined forces this week, agreeing to a multiyear deal that will provide hockey footage to Google Video.

Viewers will be able to see full games from the current season and some classic NHL contests.

The NHL will offer the video at no charge and commercial free for the first two weeks of November.

It is the first time Google Video has worked with a major professional sports league in this way.

LOOKING BACK: The NHL doesn't have an award for the top sophomore player, but if it did, Washington's Alexander Ovechkin and the Penguins' Crosby would be locked in another dogfight.

Ovechkin - with 52 goals and 106 points - edged Crosby and his 102 points as the league's best rookie last season.

Through the first month of this campaign, Crosby is slightly ahead.

Crosby led NHL players in October with 1.67 points a game, posting six goals and nine assists in the first nine games.

Early on in the season, he is playing at a pace that would net him 137 points.

Ovechkin had six goals and six assists in 11 games, topping last season when it took him 14 games to reach double figures in points.