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Penguins riding high, chasing home-ice advantage

After rough start to season, Pittsburgh has won six straight, 12 of 13

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

No Evgeni Malkin. No Marc-Andre Fleury.

Yet here are the Pittsburgh Penguins playing their best hockey of the season, a team that changed coaches a few months ago suddenly within striking distance of home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Penguins extended their win streak to six games Sunday with a 6-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers and are now three points ahead of the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, which has won 12 of its past 13 games, will go for its seventh straight win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; ROOT, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV).

Pittsburgh has scored at least five goals in four straight games and is 38-0-0 when leading after two periods.

Video: PHI@PIT: Crosby nets PPG off rebound attempt in front

"I think it should give our guys plenty of evidence that regardless of who our opponent becomes, that we can win," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think that when our team plays the game the right way, and we've used that phrase a lot and we've tried to define that with our guys, I think we're as good as any team in the League."

Here are other games that should garner plenty of attention:

Wednesday, April 6: Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers (7 p.m. ET; SNW, SNP. NHL.TV) -- It's the last game for the Oilers at Rexall Place, where they've raised five Stanley Cup championship banners to the rafters. Their next home, Rogers Place, cost an estimated $480 million (Canadian) to construct and is expected to be one of the premier arenas in the NHL. The state-of-the-art facility is scheduled to open in September, in time for the 2016-17 NHL season. "Like anything in life, change is part of life," former Oilers captain Wayne Gretzky said. "When the Montreal Forum went down and the Maple Leaf Gardens went down, it proved anything is possible. Moving into a new era with some unreal and great memories of Rexall Place, and now moving into [the] new arena, hopefully [the Oilers] can make some new and wonderful memories."

Video: FAREWELL REXALL PLACE | Home Ice

Thursday, April 7: Detroit Red Wings at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, NESN, NBCSN, TVA Sports) -- It's a huge game that could determine which team will finish third in the Atlantic Division, and whether or not the Red Wings can qualify for the playoffs for a 25th consecutive season. Detroit has won back-to-back games and has a one-point lead on the Bruins entering the week.

Thursday, April 7: New York Islanders at New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; MSG+2, MSG, NHL.TV) -- It's unlikely these teams will face each other in the playoffs, so this could be the final game between the rivals until next season. The Islanders are 3-0-0 against the Rangers in 2015-16.

Thursday, April 7: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-MW, CSN-CH, NHL.TV) -- Will these teams battle in the first round of the playoffs again? Chicago looked ready for the postseason Sunday, when Patrick Kane got his 100th point and a hat trick in a 6-4 win against the Bruins at United Center. Blues goalie Jake Allen sustained an undisclosed injury in the first period of a 5-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.

Thursday, April 7: Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; PRIME, FS-SD, KCOP-13, SN, NHL.TV) -- One point separates the Ducks and Kings for the Pacific Division lead entering the week, so this showdown at Staples Center may determine first place. Anaheim defeated the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Sunday.

Video: DAL@ANA: Kesler scores a SHG 10 seconds into the 3rd

Sunday, April 10: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET; TCN-PH, MSG+, NBCSN, SN360) -- It's the final day of the regular season and a makeup date for the Flyers and Islanders at Barclays Center after a snowstorm in January forced the game to be postponed. But this game may determine where each team finishes among the wild card spots. The second wild card has a date in the first round of the playoffs with the Washington Capitals; the first wild card faces the Atlantic Division champion.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers -- Barkov has three goals and six assists during a five-game point streak, including a four-point performance against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. He has 55 points in 62 games this season.

Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins -- With Fleury injured, Murray has stepped up for the Penguins. He went 122:05 over the weekend without allowing a goal before Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds scored during Pittsburgh's win against Philadelphia on Sunday.

Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets -- Scheifele scored in a 5-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday to extend his point streak to seven games. He has four goals and six assists over that stretch.

Video: MIN@WPG: Scheifele's goal gives Jets early lead

POINT SHOTS

Will Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk head back to Russia next season? Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman reported during the Red Wings' 3-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday that there is a "legitimate chance" Datsyuk will forego the final year of his NHL contract to return to sign with a KHL team because of family reasons. Datsyuk, 37, is scheduled to enter the final season of a three-year, $22.5 million contract. If he leaves after this season, the Red Wings will still be responsible for the $7.5 million NHL salary-cap charge for 2016-17 because he signed his last contract after he turned 35. "Pav has a year to go," general manager Ken Holland told the Detroit News. "I hear lots of rumors. There were rumors last summer, there were rumors the summer before. There was rumors about Nick Lidstrom for about three years. It's all rumors. He's got a year to go on his contract. I'm going to sit down with all our players at the end of the year, one by one, and talk to them all. Obviously, I'll sit down with Pav." … Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville won his 800th NHL game Sunday. He's second on the all-time list, 444 wins behind Scotty Bowman. "This one was a little crazier than we envisioned at one point, but certainly I've been fortunate to be with good teams, none better than the one I'm with right here," Quenneville said after the Blackhawks raced out to a six-goal lead before holding on for a 6-4 win against the Bruins at United Center. "Been a fun situation, fun working in Chicago and great group of guys."… Panthers general manager Dale Tallon on Gerard Gallant, who has guided Florida to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season: "He has done an excellent job of creating a winning culture and developing our young players in his time with the Panthers. He is an ideal fit for our group."

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