Sidney Crosby has yet to display the kind of form this season that made him one of the NHL's brightest scoring stars in recent years. Perhaps a meeting against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will help him rediscover that touch.
Two of the NHL's marquee names square off for the first time this season on Thursday night when the Crosby-led Penguins welcome Ovechkin and the Capitals to Mellon Arena.
Crosby won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies as the league's MVP and scoring leader in 2006-07 when he posted a career-high 120 points. Last season, though, his regular-season production dipped to 72 points after he missed 29 games with ankle injuries.
Though he tied for the playoff scoring lead with 27 points during Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup finals, Crosby has gotten off to a very slow start this season. He's failed to register a point in his last two games and has managed only two assists in four games so far in 2008-09.
Facing Washington could help. Crosby has played against the Capitals 11 times, guiding the Penguins to a 10-1-0 record. He's scored in all but one of those games, totaling seven goals and 12 assists.
Pittsburgh (2-1-1) avoided its first three-game losing streak since a four-game slide in November after Pascal Dupuis scored with 10.8 seconds left in overtime for a 3-2 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday.
"That's what makes winning teams, everybody chipping in at different times. It's a matter of time before their all their effort becomes goals," Dupuis said. "I'm not worried about that. It's nice to see other guys putting it in."
Besides Crosby, the Penguins would like to see Evgeni Malkin put the puck in the net more. While Crosby was injured last season, Malkin led Pittsburgh with 47 goals - 17 on the power play - and 59 assists, but he has only one goal and two assists so far in 2008-09.
He has two goals and four assists in his last two matchups with the Capitals.
Ovechkin, who had a league-best 65 goals and 112 points en route to winning the Hart and Ross Trophies among several pieces of hardware last season, also has started slowly with two goals in three games.
While he's posted six goals and nine assists in 12 career games versus the Penguins, Washington is only 2-8-2 in those contests. Ovechkin also has yet to win in regulation in six career trips to Pittsburgh.
After losing its season opener, Washington (2-1-0) has bounced back with consecutive wins, and showed off its defensive skill while setting a franchise low on Monday by limiting Vancouver to 10 shots in a 5-1 win.
"After the first five minutes, we were just all over them. They couldn't get out of their zone," said Brent Johnson, who needed to make only nine saves for his 100th NHL win. "We do that to every team, and it's going to be tough to get in our zone and put any pressure on us."
Ovechkin failed to record a point for the second time this season, but Alexander Semin scored twice, and Mike Green added a goal and an assist. Viktor Kozlov left with an undisclosed injury, and is day-to-day.