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Panthers-Penguins Preview @NHL

These aren't the Pittsburgh Penguins of the last few years.

The Penguins look to continue their hot streak when begin a three-game homestand by hosting the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

After finishing last in the Atlantic Division each of the last four seasons, Pittsburgh (23-17-8) has turned things around this year, sitting tied with the Rangers for second place with 54 points as it tries to secure its first playoff berth since 2000-01. The Penguins have won three in a row, five of their last six and earned a point in their only defeat, a 5-4 shootout loss to Boston on Jan. 18.

During its winning streak, Pittsburgh has outscored Toronto, Dallas and Phoenix by 19-7, wining its last two games on the road.

"We realize what has made us successful the last couple of weeks, and that's our work ethic and playing complete games," All-Star Sidney Crosby said. "We do make mistakes sometimes, but guys are there backing each other up when that happens. It's important we try to maintain that attitude."

Crosby, the Calder Trophy runner-up last season, tops the NHL in scoring with 78 points and has been on a tear during this stretch. Since being held scoreless in a 5-2 loss to Florida on Jan. 10, Crosby has four goals and nine assists during a six-game point streak.

Crosby has three goals and five assists in six career games against the Panthers, who have dominated the Penguins over the last five years. Florida has won 14 of the last 15 matchups with Pittsburgh and seven straight at Mellon Arena.

The Penguins' only victory during that time was a 5-1 win at Florida on April 7. The Panthers have won both meetings this season by a combined score of 8-4.

A win over Florida on Tuesday, though, could help set Pittsburgh up for a run to the playoffs. The Penguins finish the homestand by hosting Montreal and Washington, then go on the road for nine of their next 13 games.

"This is definitely going to get tough for the last 34 games," Pittsburgh forward Mark Recchi said. "We're fighting for a playoff spot. And it's not like there are three or four teams out of it in our division, I mean there's 13 or 14 (Eastern Conference) teams fighting for a playoff spot.

"Every night is going to be a playoff game."

Florida (19-22-10) is doing its best to stay in the race. The Panthers are last in the Southeast Division with 48 points, but have won consecutive games spanning the All-Star break, including a 4-2 victory over New Jersey - which leads Pittsburgh by 11 points in the Atlantic - on Saturday.

The Panthers have won consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 27-29. They trailed twice against the Devils before coming back for the victory.

"It was nice to come back quickly on them," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "It was a big win for us and we've got to put some wins together."

Florida has only six wins in 20 road games, but did snap a five-game losing streak away from home with a 4-1 victory at Washington on Jan. 20.

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