Though he's still a teenager, Sidney Crosby is showing the same flashes of brilliance Wayne Gretzky did a generation ago.
The 19-year-old Crosby was named the league's first star of the week on Monday after posting three goals and 10 assists in four games. That included his finest game as a pro with a goal and five assists in an 8-4 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
"It was a logical choice. He deserved it," Penguins coach Michel Therrien told the team's official Web site. "He played really well this week. At 19 years old, to be the leading scorer is quite an accomplishment."
With 16 goals and 52 points, Crosby is the first teenager to lead the league in scoring since Gretzky with Edmonton late in 1979-80 and early the following season.
After being held off the scoresheet in a 5-2 loss to New Jersey on Dec. 1, last season's Calder Trophy runner-up has put together his longest points streak of 2006-07. In his last eight games, Crosby has six goals and 14 assists to move past former Penguins star Jaromir Jagr, now with the New York Rangers, to become the leading scorer.
Pittsburgh, though, is just 4-3-1 in those games and only 1-2-2 in its last five against the Blues.
Crosby extended his streak with an assist in a 5-2 loss to Montreal on Saturday, and was held without a point last season in his only career game against the Blues, a 3-0 road loss on Dec. 13, 2005.
Though St. Louis (7-19-6) enters this contest on an 11-game losing streak - two off the franchise record set late last season - Therrien said he still expects a tough game.
"It's not about the Blues, it's about the Penguins," he said. "We're a team that focuses a lot on how we should play, the way we should play ... We're facing a team that you can't look at the standings and say it's going to be an easy game. They've played better and with more energy."
The Blues will try for the fifth time to post their first win under new coach Andy Murray, and is coming off a home-and-home sweep at the hands of Central Division-leading Nashville, including a 2-1 overtime defeat on Sunday.
Lee Stempniak's power-play goal in the first period gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead for the fourth straight game, but Manny Legace gave up Dan Hamhuis' tying goal with 4:19 to play in regulation before Kimmo Timonen scored on the power play 3:11 into overtime.
Murray said the Blues - who killed of 10 short-handed situations before Timonen's goal - lost because "we weren't smart."
"We can complain that the referees should have made some calls the other way and that type of thing," he said. "We need to keep the feet moving and stay away from the referees and just play the game and get a win, and we failed to do that."
In four games under Murray since he took over for the fired Mike Kitchen on Dec. 11, the Blues have been outscored 12-6, and have given up five power-play goals.
Facing the Penguins may help leading scorer Keith Tkachuk break out of a severe scoring slump. After posting nine points during a season-high seven-game streak from Oct. 30-Nov. 12, the veteran center has managed just eight points in 16 games since.
Tkachuk, though, has a nine-game points streak against the Penguins during which he's registered eight goals and six assists. His 24 points this season ties him with Phoenix's Ladislav Nagy and Dallas' Philippe Boucher for the lowest total by a team's leading scorer.
|Dec 19 '06||STL 4 at PIT 1|