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Reeling Avs set to host Pens

by Sergei J. Feldman
PENGUINS (35-19-4) at AVALANCHE (25-26-6)

TV — FS-P (HD), ALT (HD)

Last 10 — Pittsburgh 6-4-0; Colorado 1-9-0.

Season Series — The Pens and Avs will go at it for the first and only time this season. In last year's only meeting, the Penguins came out on top, 4-1. Captain Sidney Crosby scored twice, while recently retired forward Bill Guerin and Jordan Staal added the other two.

Big story — Just two games after deciding to try an NHL comeback, the Avalanche and the rest of the hockey said goodbye to Peter Forsberg, who called it quits when he decided he just couldn't play at the level he's grown accustomed to anymore. This only added to the recent turmoil in Colorado, as the Avalanche are in the midst of an eight game losing streak.

Team scope:

Penguins — The Penguins look forward to put their recent New York road trip in the back of their minds after losing to both the Islanders and Rangers by a combined score of 14-6 and a trip to Colorado could be just what the team needs. With the Avalanche struggling of late, the Penguins certainly won't feel sorry for them, as they themselves lost three of their last four games. Despite injuries to top-tier talents like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Pens have seen complementary players like Chris Kunitz, Arron Asham, Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey go down as well. Either way, the focus is on executing with what they have and excuses don't exist in the team dressing room.

"We have to find ways to win games and guys that are filling those roles like myself and other players, we all need to step up our game," Staal told

Avalanche — The recent eight-game losing streak is the worst in franchise history for the Avalanche. Once an obvious playoff team, the Avalanche now sit near the bottom of the Western Conference. The silver lining after a winless four-game road trip is that the team has a chance to put together a solid 60-minute effort at home when the Penguins come to town before another mini road trip against San Jose and St. Louis meets greets them just three days later. While things have looked bad in Colorado, the standard remains intact and solid hockey is the expectation.

"[Monday night's 9-1 loss to Calgary] was completely unacceptable," forward Paul Stastny said. "We should be ashamed of our performance."

Still, unity will be what gets the team going in a positive direction.

"We're all in this together right now," coach Joe Sacco said. "Obviously, we need a win to feel better about ourselves."

Who's hot — Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang has collected three points in his last two games for the Penguins, who are lacking offensive potency and need it from the blue line. Meanwhile, right wing David Jones has three goals in his last four games for the Avalanche.

Injury reportMatt Duchene is day-to-day with a hand injury, while Adam Foote needs another week to deal with a thigh injury for Colorado.

Stat pack — The Pittsburgh Penguins have more wins away from Consol Energy Center (15) than the Avalanche do at home (14). The Avs can eclipse the .500 mark with a win, as they sit 14-14-3 at the Pepsi Center.

Puck drop — Max Talbot wouldn't allow for excuses to highlight the Penguins' recent troubles and pointed to a culture in Pittsburgh as the reason the team can break out of their slump.

"You know what? With or without and guy in the lineup, we're the Pittsburgh Penguins right here and if we play the system and win the special teams battles, we have a good chance to win the hockey game," Talbot said.

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