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Penguins look for ninth win in a row

by John Kreiser /

PITTSBURGH (17-8-2) at BLUE JACKETS (14-9-1)

TV -- FS-Pittsburgh; FS-Ohio

Last 10 -- Pittsburgh 9-0-1; Columbus 5-4-1

Season series -- It's the first of two meetings between the teams this season -- the Jackets come to Pittsburgh on Feb. 8. Pittsburgh has won seven of the 11 games between the teams, including the only one last season, a 4-3 shootout victory on Oct. 30.

Big story -- A week or so ago, this would have been a battle between two of the NHL's hottest teams. But while the Penguins have stayed hot and stretched their winning streak to eight games, the Jackets have dropped four in a row -- two to Detroit last weekend, a 4-3 shootout to Nashville on Wednesday and a 5-0 nightmare at Buffalo on Friday night

Team Scope:

Penguins -- No player is hotter than Sidney Crosby, who has at least one point in his last 14 games and has scored three goals in two of his last three. Sid did all the scoring on Thursday, getting a natural hat trick in a 3-2 victory against Atlanta. He has 15 goals and 29 points during the streak, but said afterward that the individual numbers aren't important.

"You try not to think about the points," Crosby said. "You try to evaluate your game, no matter how they are going. The team has been playing well and as a line we have been clicking. I think it is just a combination of that."

Blue Jackets -- The Jackets went toe-to-toe with the Wings in their two losses and dropped a shootout to Nashville on Wednesday. But Friday's beatdown in Buffalo left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

"We just didn't seem ready from the start," captain Rick Nash said. "It was a poor effort."

Columbus did almost nothing right. The Jackets were outshot 37-19, went 0-for-6 on the power play and allowed three power-play goals.

"Too many guys on vacation," forward R.J. Umberger said. "It was probably our worst effort in a while. We're not going to win any games like that."

Who's hot -- Crosby isn't the only Penguin on a roll. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has rebounded from a shaky start to win seven in a row and go 9-0-1 in his last 10 starts, allowing just 17 goals in that span. … Columbus' R.J. Umberger had a 10-game points streak snapped on Friday.

Injury report -- Pens forward Max Talbot left Friday's practice after taking a shot in the foot and is questionable with what coach Dan Bylsma called a "bruised" foot. Evgeni Malkin didn't practice due to an undisclosed injury, and defenseman Brooks Orpik sat out with an illness but is expected to play. Center Jordan Staal (broken hand) has yet to play this season. … Columbus is without defenseman Mark Methot due to an upper-body injury, and forward Kristian Huselius (high ankle sprain) is still a couple of weeks from getting back into the lineup

Stat pack -- Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak is the longest since the Pens won eight in a row from Dec. 23, 2007 to Jan. 10, 2008. Their 11-game unbeaten streak in regulation is its longest since a 12-game run (10-0-2) from Feb. 25 to March. 20, 2009.

Puck drop -- Could Crosby be headed for a 60-goal season? Consider that when he tied Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the League lead by scoring 51 last season, he had just 15 goals after 27 games. He has 21 after 27 games this time, including six in his last three games, and is on pace to score 63 times in 82 games.

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