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Can Crosby keep it up as Pens host Thrashers?

by Brian Hunter /
THRASHERS (19-13-6) at PENGUINS (24-11-2)


Last 10:
Atlanta 4-3-3; Pittsburgh 7-3-0

Season series: Third of four meetings this season -- the final one comes on the last day of the regular season. Pittsburgh has already beaten Atlanta twice thanks to a pair of hat tricks, by Evgeni Malkin in a 4-2 win on Nov. 13 and Sidney Crosby in a 3-2 victory on Dec. 2.

Big story: Before the Penguins can turn their attention to Heinz Field and the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Capitals on New Year’s Day, they must first navigate games on back-to-back nights against the Thrashers and Islanders. Will Crosby carry the NHL’s longest points streak in 18 years into the outdoor game? It stands at 24 after his late goal in Sunday’s loss to the Senators.

Team Scope:

Thrashers: After temporarily taking over sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division, Atlanta has slipped to third behind Tampa Bay and Washington thanks to an 0-2-1 stretch. The Thrashers hosted the Lightning on Sunday and rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits with Zach Bogosian and Freddy Modin lighting the lamp. But Vincent Lecavalier scored his second of the game early in overtime, handing the home team a 3-2 defeat.

"We had a chance to win the game and we gave it to them," a disappointed Ondrej Pavelec said. "We gave them two points ... four on three is really tough. Like I said, we had a chance to win and we gave it to them."

Penguins: It was a mostly forgettable night for Crosby and his Pittsburgh teammates as they fell 3-1 in Ottawa on Sunday. A hooking penalty by Sid the Kid led to the first goal for the Senators and they scored again during a delayed call against No. 87. The Penguins were looking at being shut out and seeing Crosby’s streak end when he powered a backhander past Brian Elliott with 3:22 remaining.

"There's always an eye on the fact that you're coming back from two days where you don't skate but that wasn't any different for them and for us," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's just a matter of how we're going to play the game and our mentality going in, and in the first we didn't maybe look to execute too much and didn't manage the puck deep a number of occasions and that led to a lot of success for them."

Who's hot: Bryan Little has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Thrashers. ... Crosby has 24 goals and 46 points during his points streak, the longest in the NHL since Mats Sundin’s 30-game run for Quebec in 1992-93.

Injury report: Atlanta forward Nik Antropov is expected to miss Tuesday's game with a hip injury. ... Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson (groin), defenseman Ben Lovejoy (face) and forward Arron Asham (lower body) are day-to-day. Forwards Mike Comrie (hip) and Jordan Staal (hand) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack: The Thrashers won 57 percent of their faceoffs against the Lightning, led by Rich Peverley's 17-for-30 effort. ... Crosby has scored at least 3 points six times during his current streak, including in both games the Penguins have played against the Thrashers.

Puck drop: Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay knows stopping Crosby is virtually impossible -- he'll be happy just to come away with two points against Pittsburgh for the first time this season.

"The boy's special, there's no question," he said. "Everybody knows that. When players like that get on a roll, it's scary to play against them."

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