The Pittsburgh Penguins are used to having the NHL's best player in their lineup. When Sidney Crosby went down with an injury last month, it didn't look like they could make that claim for a while.
Evgeni Malkin would beg to differ.
Malkin will look to register a point in his ninth straight game on Tuesday when the Penguins try to beat the visiting Florida Panthers for the fifth consecutive time.
Crosby was tied for the NHL lead with 63 points when he suffered a high ankle injury on Jan. 18 that's expected to keep him out until at least the end of February.
Many expected Pittsburgh (33-21-5) to fall out of the Atlantic Division race with the league's reigning MVP sidelined, but Malkin has shown he is capable of carrying the Penguins.
The second-year star has 11 goals and 14 assists in the 13 games since Crosby's injury, and sits second in the NHL scoring race with 77 points, just one behind fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin.
He's been even better during his eight-game point streak, recording seven goals and 12 assists in that stretch.
Malkin has two goals and four assists in his last five games against the Panthers (27-28-6).
Yet as brilliant as Malkin's been, the Penguins wouldn't be 7-4-2 without Crosby if it wasn't for Ty Conklin. The journeyman goaltender is 15-4-3 since Marc-Andre Fleury went down with an injury in mid-December.
He made 36 saves on Sunday to help Pittsburgh bounce back from consecutive losses, beating Buffalo 4-1.
"When your goalie's giving you the performance like Ty gave us, it gives your team some confidence," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "He's a big part of the reason why we had success."
Conklin leads the NHL with a .932 save percentage and is among the top five in the league with a 2.19 goals-against average.
Petr Sykora, who has six goals and 10 assists since Crosby went down, scored a power-play goal against the Sabres, marking the eighth straight game Pittsburgh has scored with the man advantage.
The Penguins are 12-for-37 (32.4 percent) in that span, and have the fourth-best power-play percentage (21.0) in the league.
Florida also features one of the NHL's top power-play units (20.1) and has gone 9-for-31 (29.0) in its past seven contests.
But the wins haven't been coming as often as the Panthers would like lately. After a 6-3-1 stretch got them back in the race in the mediocre Southeast Division, they've gone 1-2-1 in their past four.
The Panthers looked like they would snap their 12-game losing streak at Carolina on Saturday, leading 4-2 early in the third period, but Florida's defensive breakdowns allowed the Hurricanes to score three straight en route to a 5-4 win.
All-Star goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who fell to 25-23-5 on the season, was irate about the collapse.
"It's unbelievable," Vokoun said. "I don't think words can describe it. It just shows you our lack of commitment to defense. Many times it didn't cost us but (in Carolina) it cost us dearly. We basically had the game and gave it to them. There is no secret to it."
Vokoun, who was acquired from Nashville in the offseason, has lost both games he's started against Pittsburgh this season, and was pulled after giving up three second-period goals on Jan. 8.
Nathan Horton has been the key to Florida's offense recently. The fourth-year winger scored twice against Carolina and has eight goals and three assists in his past nine games.
Horton (49 points) is second on the team behind Olli Jokinen (59) in scoring.