PENGUINS (33-13-6) at AVALANCHE (15-33-2)
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Penguins team scope
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby needs two points for 1,000 in his NHL career. He will be the 86th player in League history to reach the milestone and would be the 12th fastest, playing in his 754th game. Crosby, the Penguins captain, didn't take part in an optional morning skate. He has 10 points (six goals, four assists) in nine games against the Colorado Avalanche, with five points (three goals, two assists) in four games at Pepsi Center. He didn't play Oct. 17 in the Penguins' 4-3 overtime loss to Colorado because of a concussion. "There's so many elements to Sid as a person that makes him what he is," coach Mike Sullivan said. "For me, the thing that jumps out the most is his work ethic, his overall approach to the game. The root of it all is just his love for hockey. His work ethic is second to none. He's a talented kid, but I think what really separates him from some of the players that I've been around is his insatiable appetite for this game and to be the best." Forward Evgeni Malkin skated Thursday but will miss his sixth consecutive game because of a lower-body injury. Malkin might return against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, according to Sullivan. "He had a full contact practice today," Sullivan said. "It's his first one and he's obviously making some significant progress." The Penguins, 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Goaltender Matt Murray is expected to start.
Avalanche team scope
The Avalanche look to win three consecutive games for the first time since March 16-20 last season. "We want to go .500 the rest of the season and create some positivity," said forward Nathan MacKinnon, who is good friends with fellow Nova Scotia native Crosby. "He's been the best player in the world for 12 years now, he's been doing it forever. He's had an unbelievable career, definitely one of the best players ever to play. He's like a grinder almost. He goes in the corners, he battles hard. That's what makes him so good; he can play any style of game." The Avalanche didn't hold a morning skate, but defenseman Tyson Barrie said he won't play because of the lower-body injury that caused him to miss six of the previous eight games. Forward Matt Nieto (leg) might play, according to coach Jared Bednar. Nieto was injured when he was struck by a slap shot by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber in the third period of the Avalanche's 4-0 win Tuesday. If Nieto can't play, Joe Colborne will take his place with center Matt Duchene and left wing Mikhail Grigorenko. Colorado would be short one forward and dress Eric Gelinas as a seventh defenseman.
Penguins projected lineup
Chris Kunitz -- Sidney Crosby -- Bryan Rust
Jake Guentzel -- Nick Bonino -- Phil Kessel
Scott Wilson -- Carter Rowney -- Patric Hornqvist
Tom Kuhnhackl -- Matt Cullen -- Eric Fehr
Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang
Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz
Olli Maatta -- Trevor Daley
Scratched: Chad Ruhwedel
Injured: Carl Hagelin (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Conor Sheary (upper body)
Avalanche projected lineup
Mikhail Grigorenko -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog -- Matt Duchene -- Joe Colborne
Blake Comeau -- John Mitchell -- Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen -- Carl Soderberg
Francois Beauchemin -- Nikita Zadorov
Mark Barberio -- Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin -- Patrick Wiercioch
Scratched: Eric Gelinas
Injured: Tyson Barrie (lower body), Rene Bourque (head), Erik Johnson (broken fibula), Matt Nieto (leg), Semyon Varlamov (hip surgery)
The Avalanche recalled Smith from San Antonio of the American Hockey League and reassigned goalie Spencer Martin.
Crosby has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in his past 11 games. … Kessel has eight points (four goals, four assists) in his past eight games. … Letang has four points (one goal, three assists) in a three-game point streak. … Rantanen has six points (five goals, one assist) in his past five games.