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Crosby on pace for career season

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby has caught fire, but by no means is this hot streak typical for No. 87.

Instead of helping on a slew of goals, Crosby is scoring at a career-best pace.

After recording his second hat trick of the season in Saturday's 8-3 win over the Rangers, he added two more to his season total in Monday's 5-2 win at Madison Square Garden and now has 17 goals in 28 games, good for fourth in the League and only four behind the leader, Marian Gaborik.

Crosby's previous best at the 28-game mark was 16 in 2006-07 when he won the Art Ross Trophy. If he keeps up the pace, Crosby, who has 17 points on 8 goals and 9 assists in his last 10 games, could reach 50 goals this season. His previous best is 39.

"I think if you watch his game in past years he had opportunities to score goals that maybe he didn't take and looked for the pass," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's an exceptional passer as well so you don't take that away from a player, but he has the mindset that he's going to shoot the puck more and as a result you see him getting those opportunities. He's shooting to score but he's also shooting to get pucks to the net more. You shoot the puck if you want to score goals."

The coach is dead on with that assessment. Crosby has already registered 101 shots on goal, putting him on pace for close to 300 this season, which would also be a career-high. He had 278 as a rookie, but only 238 last season.

Bylsma took zero credit for Crosby's itchy trigger fingers.

"I think that's something Sid decided on this summer," he said. "In our short summer it was a focus he had on his game, something he wanted to improve upon."

Crosby's recent hot streak has come after he went an unheard of five games without a point (Oct. 31-Nov. 10). It was Crosby's longest stretch of games without a point in his career and the Penguins went 1-4 over the span.

"Right now I think he's doing more to get scoring opportunities and to get his line more scoring opportunities," Bylsma said.

Even so, Crosby felt he was doing some good things during his five-game pointless streak as well. He just wasn't getting the results, but neither were the Penguins.

They scored only seven goals during the stretch and got shutout twice.

"I felt I was generating chances and when I wasn't getting them I was able to find other guys, too, but as a team we were just struggling to put pucks in the net," Crosby said. "Our power play was struggling. It's just a stretch in the season you go through but you have to cut it off as quickly as you can and really work on the basics of your game and hope it turns."

It's obviously turned in a big way because since Crosby has gotten hot, so have the Penguins.

Granted, his streak has coincided with the return of some key players such as Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Malkin, Maxime Talbot, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Tyler Kennedy, but the Penguins are 7-3 since Crosby's streak began.

"A big part of the game is your confidence, your mentality and attitude," said Crosby, who has torched the Rangers for 44 points in 31 career games. "You want your game to be where it needs to be and personally I feel that has been the case."

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