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Penguins-Blackhawks Preview @NHLdotcom

Sidney Crosby has been cycling through linemates all season trying to find the right combination and with a big trade Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins hope they've found a good fit.

They'll need Crosby back on the ice to find out.

Newly acquired Chris Kunitz will be available, but the Penguins may again be without their captain Friday night when they open a five-game road trip in Chicago, where the Blackhawks kick off a home-heavy stretch run.

Pittsburgh acquired Marian Hossa at the trade deadline last season, and he paired with Crosby to play a critical role in carrying the team to the Stanley Cup finals. But when he left for Detroit in early July, the Penguins, who had already lost forwards Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu, Gary Roberts and Adam Hall via free agency, were left without much help on Crosby's wing.

Veterans Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko were signed, but neither has given Pittsburgh a dynamite finisher to play with one of the league's most creative players.

So with the Penguins (30-26-6) on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, general manager Ray Shero dealt defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim on Thursday for Kunitz, who was playing on the Ducks' top line, and a junior prospect.

Pittsburgh interim coach Dan Bylsma played with Kunitz in Anaheim, and later coached him.

"He drives to the net and creates space for people," Bylsma told the team's official Web site. "He's a pretty speedy guy up front. Immediately that's what you can expect from Chris Kunitz. ... He's around the net a lot so you'll find him there, getting goals and creating space for people."

Kunitz, who has 16 goals and 19 assists, will almost certainly be on a line with Crosby eventually, but it's uncertain if they'll be on the ice together against the Blackhawks (34-17-8). Crosby missed the Penguins' 1-0 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday with a sore groin, and is considered day-to-day.

"I just took a rest and we'll see (Friday) how I feel," Crosby said. "When you're dealing with a groin you have to be cautious. I hope that it goes away soon."

Pittsburgh is in desperate need of points as it tries to get back into the top eight of the Eastern Conference, and those hopes would be helped by better play on the road. That's where the Penguins play their next five games, and they're 2-8-2 away from Mellon Arena since Jan. 1.

The road is where Chicago has spent much of the past month, playing 12 of 14 games away from home coming out of the All-Star break. The Blackhawks were 9-3-0 in the first 12 games of that stretch, but fell 2-1 at home to Minnesota on Sunday, then gave up four third-period goals in a 5-3 loss at Nashville on Tuesday.

"I don't think we played well in the first or third period," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It has been a long road trip. I don't like to make excuses, but we were definitely not good enough. We've got to bring some emotion and tonight was not our best."

Starting Friday, Chicago will play 12 of its next 15 at the United Center, where it's 15-5-5. The Blackhawks have played easily the fewest home games in the league.

Patrick Sharp, who leads Chicago with 23 goals, is likely to miss a sixth straight game with a lower-body injury, but Jonathan Toews and Martin Havlat have stepped up in his absence. Toews has five goals and four assists in his last six games, while Havlat has three goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak.

The Penguins' last game in Chicago was a 4-1 loss on Jan. 13, 2006, during Crosby's rookie season.

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