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Weekly Primer

Ducks vs. Penguins a clash of surging teams

Anaheim, Pittsburgh face off in one of top NHL games this week

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The first half of the 2015-16 season didn't go as envisioned for the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins, but each appears to be back on track.

Anaheim (25-18-7) has won six in a row and has moved within a point of second place in the Pacific Division. Pittsburgh (26-18-7) is 6-2-2 in its past 10 games and rallied for an impressive 3-2 overtime win at the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

On Monday, the Ducks begin a seven-game road trip when they play the Penguins at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; FS-W, ROOT, NHL.TV).

"Guys are playing good," Anaheim forward Patrick Maroon told the Ducks website. "In the beginning of the season, we had no confidence. Everyone is chipping in now, and everyone has confidence.

"Trust me, confidence goes a long way in this game. If you don't have it, your game isn't going to be there. We have such a close team, so everyone picks each other up. Everyone is here for each other."

The Penguins' resurgence has been led by captain Sidney Crosby, who got his 900th NHL point and extended his point streak to 10 games on Saturday. Crosby has 10 goals and eight assists during that span.

Video: PIT@FLA: Crosby scores on a deflection, ties the game

"You go through a coaching change and everyone has to prove themselves," Crosby told the Penguins website. "Everyone kind of starts fresh. I think I feel like I was in the same boat. I wanted to make sure I was personally better. As a group, we've been better. When the team's playing well, I think individually everybody benefits."

Pittsburgh could be without center Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury.

Here are other games that should garner plenty of attention:

Monday, Feb. 8: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, MSG+, MSG) -- One of the best rivalries in the NHL resumes at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers could be without captain Ryan McDonagh after he was punched by Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds on Saturday. New York did not have an update on McDonagh's status Sunday.

Thursday, Feb. 11: Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-SW, CSN-CH, NHL.TV) -- One has to think Stars coach Lindy Ruff is still steaming after Chicago handed Dallas a 5-1 loss at American Airlines Arena on Saturday. Stars captain Jamie Benn has one goal in his past five games.

Friday, Feb. 12: Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; ROOT, FS-CR, NHL.TV) -- Anyone who thought the Hurricanes wouldn't be in the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this late in the season, think again; Carolina has at least a point in seven of its past 10 games (5-3-2) and is two points behind Pittsburgh and New Jersey in the Metropolitan Division.

Saturday, Feb. 13: Arizona Coyotes at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-A, CSN-CA, NHL.TV) -- Two big points are on the line in the Pacific Division race, points that the Coyotes desperately need. Arizona is 2-6-2 in its past 10 games with a five-game road trip looming later this month.

Sunday, Feb. 14: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC) - It's an Atlantic Division showdown before a nationally televised audience at Joe Louis Arena. The Bruins have won two in a row and are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic; Detroit is two back of Boston and Tampa Bay.

Video: FLA@WSH: Burakovsky beats Montoya

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals -- The 20-year-old had a five-game goal streak come to an end Sunday against the Flyers, but he extended his point streak to seven games with an assist in the 3-2 win. Burakovsky, playing with Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov, has 13 points in the past 10 games.

"The key is our line really knows each other at this point," Burakovsky said. "We talk to each other every shift and we tell each other where we should go and what we should do better, and that's important."

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Crosby is getting the bulk of the attention, but Letang plays a huge role in Pittsburgh's success. He had two goals and an assist Saturday, and has 13 points in his past nine games.

"He's been all over the ice, every situation," Crosby said. "He's been involved, a big part of every game. His impact on the game is huge. Again [Saturday] he gets us started and gets that one and gets some momentum, and then to finish it off with the winner [Saturday] is huge. He's been a big part of it."

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers -- The first pick in the 2015 NHL Draft has two goals and four assists in four games since returning from a fractured left clavicle. McDavid scored Edmonton's goal in an 8-1 loss at the New York Islanders on Sunday.

"He's a superstar," Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "He's really, really, really good. I mean, the plays he can make with the puck, there's very few guys in the League right now that can make those plays. I look forward to seeing him in four or five years when he's really comfortable in the League to see what he can do when their team's probably going to be a lot better than it is right now."

Video: Connor McDavid scores an amazing goal in return

LINE CHANGES

Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames -- The subject of many rumors leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29, Hudler is producing on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. In his past six games, Hudler has two goals and four assists.

Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators -- After missing six games because of a lower-body injury, Turris centered Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman in Ottawa's 6-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The Senators were 1-5-0 with Turris out.

"It's tricky. It's kind of a finicky thing," Turris told the Ottawa Sun. "I don't know how to explain it. It's just a frustrating [injury] that I've been trying to get better."

Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild -- Coach Mike Yeo is trying anything to get the Wild headed in the right direction. On Saturday, he decided to make Vanek a healthy scratch. Vanek has one point in his past eight games.

Minnesota lost its fifth in a row (0-4-1), 4-1 at the St. Louis Blues. The Wild are 1-9-1 in their past 11 games.

"Message-sending, whatever," Yeo said. "We're going down a path that we need to change directions here.

"... I think certainly there comes a time where [if] we continue to go down the path that we're going, we need to make some changes and we're at that point right now."

POINT SHOTS

Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson had four assists in the win against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. He leads the NHL with 48 assists and is tied with Benn for second in the League with 59 points. "He's the catalyst of this team," Senators coach Dave Cameron said. "He's our engine. He was instrumental the last little while of making sure there was accountability, and he backed it up." … Best wishes to Boston Bruins goalie prospect Malcolm Subban, who fractured his larynx while playing for Providence of the American Hockey League on Saturday. … Hurricanes captain Eric Staal became the third player in history to play 900 games for the Carolina/Hartford Whalers franchise, joining Ron Francis (1,186) and Glen Wesley (913).

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