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Sidney Crosby failed to score a goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins completed a successful swing across Western Canada. The reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner, though, has had little trouble scoring against the Philadelphia Flyers throughout his brief career.
Crosby and the Penguins look to go unbeaten on their four-game road swing and win their season-high fifth in a row overall as they meet the struggling Flyers on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.
The top overall pick in the 2005 draft, Crosby has enjoyed facing the Penguins' in-state rival. In only 18 matchups, Crosby has tallied 14 goals and 32 points - the most he's had against any team.
Crosby leads the Penguins with 14 goals and 26 assists, and is tied with Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk for third in the NHL in scoring with 40 points.
On Dec. 13, Crosby set single-game career highs against Philadelphia (15-10-2) with five assists and six points in an 8-4 home win. That was one of 10 multi-point games Crosby has had against the Flyers since his rookie year, leading Pittsburgh to a 10-7-1 record.
Since that six-point game though, Crosby has struggled some when facing Philadelphia, registering only three assists in five games. He's posted one assist in each of two games this season versus the Flyers, but the Penguins (15-12-2) have lost both times.
Mike Richards, who has shadowed Crosby this season for the Flyers, knows the challenge that again awaits him.
"You just have to try to contain him. He's very opportunistic and somehow he just finds players," Richards told the Flyers' official Web site. "You just have to expect the unexpected and be ready at all times."
During his first visit to Canada's western provinces since breaking into the league, Crosby managed only three assists and they all came in the third period Wednesday in Pittsburgh's 4-2 win over Edmonton.
Defenseman Kris Letang, though, was responsible for the Penguins staying perfect out west by beating two of the league's best goaltenders in shootouts. After scoring off Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff in the fourth round of a 3-2 win on Thursday, Letang put the game-winner past Roberto Luongo in the sixth round of a 2-1 win over the Canucks on Saturday.
"I had the chance to make the team win, so like last game I put the move in my head and just made it," Letang said. "Just like Calgary, I had confidence. It's not more confidence, I just had to do it again."
The surging Penguins will face a team that has been struggling with consistency. The Flyers have alternated wins and losses in their last eight games, including a 2-1 loss on Friday in Colorado. Daniel Briere's 13th goal with 2:05 to play in the second period lifted Philadelphia into a 1-all tie, but Martin Biron allowed a power-play goal to Milan Hejduk with 3 seconds to play in the frame.
"For me, we broke that cycle the way we played in Colorado," said Briere, who needs one goal to tie Richards for the team lead. "Sometimes you're going to face good teams and you're not going to win, but what's the most important is you play well and give yourself a chance. We did that in Colorado."
Philadelphia opened the season with six straight home wins, including a 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 10, but has gone 0-3-2 since Nov. 12. Biron has started all five games, going 0-2-2 with a 4.31 goals-against average, and is 12-8-2 with a 2.61 GAA overall.
Antero Niittymaki replaced Biron on Nov. 26, and allowed two goals in the final 34:45 of a 6-3 loss to Boston. Niittymaki is 0-3-1 with a 4.94 GAA in his last four home starts versus Pittsburgh dating back to Oct. 28, 2006.
Philadelphia will play six of its next eight at home.