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NHL pluses and minuses: Penguins have won seven in a row

NHL pluses and minuses: Penguins have won seven in a row
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, center, is congratulated by defensemen Paul Martin (7) and Kris Letang (58) after scoring against the Sabres during a game Saturday night in Buffalo. (Gary Wiepert / Associated Press)

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the past week:

+ The Pittsburgh Penguins, fueled by a power play operating at a 37.5% success rate, have won seven straight games. Sidney Crosby, who had five assists against Buffalo on Saturday, leads the league in scoring with 24 points. Earlier in the week, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury signed a four-year, $23-million extension.

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+ Kudos to the New York Islanders for pulling off a difficult double by beating the Ducks (in overtime) and the Kings (in a shootout) on consecutive days, and then winning in Arizona to conclude a 3-2 trip. It has taken the Islanders a while to rebuild, but they've assembled some depth to support John Tavares (six goals, 15 points).

+ St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko has become a human highlight reel. He had three goals and six points in four games last week, including the shootout winner against the New York Rangers. He has five goals and eight points in a five-game scoring streak.

- The NHL permits teams to sell advertisements on dasher boards and on the ice. Next up: ads on uniforms. John Collins, the league's chief operating officer, recently told Sports Business Daily that sponsorships on jerseys "are coming and happening," though he wouldn't say when. The NHL undoubtedly will love the revenues, but who wants players to look like mobile billboards?

- The Columbus Blue Jackets, who have missed as many as nine players because of injuries and/or suspensions, are in a 0-7-1 tailspin. At least they have an excuse. The Dallas Stars (0-5-2) don't have one. The Stars have been outscored, 21-9, in the third period this season.

- The defending East champion Rangers are 2-3-2 in their last seven, including back-to-back losses last weekend at Toronto and at home to Edmonton. Center Derek Stepan has recovered from the broken leg that delayed his season debut but the defense is in disarray and depleted by injuries.

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