PITTSBURGH -- The cameras crowd around Sidney Crosby's stall, parting only to let the Pittsburgh Penguins captain slip through and tug on a baseball cap before the lights flip on, the microphones close in and the questions come.
Fifteen feet away, Evgeni Malkin goes about his business quietly as part of his game-day routine, consulting with a staff member about a piece of equipment before ducking out, a star hiding in plain sight.
In another era or in another NHL city, it wouldn't be this way. Yet this is Malkin's lot, one the 32-year-old Russian and most recent member of 1,000-point club readily accepts. Drafted one spot behind fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin and one year ahead of Crosby -- whom he's partnered to win three Stanley Cups with over the last decade -- Malkin is forever being nudged ever so slightly into the shadow of the two players who have defined the league for a generation.
"I think he likes it that way, to be honest with you," said former teammate Brooks Orpik, now a defenseman for the Washington Capitals. "He lets Sid do a lot more of the media stuff. And he kind of does his own thing and flies under the radar. I think he's good with that part of it."
Even if Malkin's affable public reticence plays in stark contrast to the way he goes about doing his job, where the 2012 Hart Trophy winner, four-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion is a study in contrasts. Hulking yet nimble. Intimidating yet imaginative. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound anomaly of speed, power and skill who joined Ovechkin and Crosby, San Jose's Joe Thornton and Toronto's Patrick Marleau as the only active players to hit four digits when he collected two assists in Pittsburgh's 5-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.
Malkin picked up secondary assists on Crosby's second-period goal and Phil Kessel's third-period marker and celebrated by getting mobbed in the corner as the sellout crowd that included his parents and his wife rose to its feet in appreciation. Not bad for a kid from Magnitogorsk, Russia who never imagined he'd called America home.
"I grow up in small city and never think I play in NHL and score like, 1,000 points," Malkin said.
Yet what once must have seemed impossible became inevitable as the years passed, the goals piled up and his reputation as one of the NHL's most dynamic and daunting players blossomed.
"He makes it look easy, that's the thing," Crosby said. "It's so effortless for him."
Crosby offered a sequence during Pittsburgh's 4-2 win over Boston on Sunday night as proof. Malkin collected a pass at the Penguins' blue line, raced by Bruins forward Peter Cehlarik, slipped the puck underneath Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo's flailing stick -- spinning Carlo around completely in the process -- then re-gathered it before ripping a wrist shot that soared over the crossbar. The whole thing took five seconds. Even now, 13 years into a partnership as productive as any in modern NHL history, Crosby couldn't help but shake his head.
"You know how hard those things are to do?" Crosby said. "And to see him do it the way he does is pretty special."