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Surging Wild visit Sid-less Penguins

by Sergei J. Feldman /
WILD (20-15-5) at PENGUINS (26-12-4)

TV -- FS-North (HD), FS-Wisconsin (HD), FS-Pittsburgh (HD)

Last 10 -- Minnesota 7-2-1; Pittsburgh 5-3-2

Season series -- This is the first and only meeting between Pittsburgh and Minnesota, the representative cities of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final. Back then, though, Minnesota was home to the North Stars. Last season, however, the Wild bested the Pens in meetings.

Big story -- Minnesota, one of the hottest teams in the League of late will skate into Pittsburgh to play a Penguins team that will be without star center Sidney Crosby. The Penguins will be without theirt captain for about a week due to a concussion.

Team scope:

Wild -- The Wild began the season playing up-and-down, inconsistent hockey. But recently, the team has turned things around and looking like a playoff contender. A three-game winning streak to begin January and 2011 doesn't hurt, but as impressive as the wins has been where they've come from -- on the road. The Wild have gone 6-1-1 in their last eight games away from Minnesota, and the recent turnaround has been attributable to attitude.

"Early on in the year, things weren't going well and confidence was an issue," coach Todd Richards said. "But you walk through that room right now, and you can see the confidence starting to build."

Penguins -- The Penguins certainly haven't slumped lately, but compared with a recent 12-game winning streak, their more-recent 5-3-2 stretch has raised a few eyebrows. Coming off a 2-1 shootout loss at Montreal on Thursday and without Crosby (concussion) and Matt Cooke (personal reasons), the Pens return home for a couple of games. Winning without Crosby will be a test, but proper precaution has been the prevailing sentiment from the Penguins with regard to how to handle the injury. Meanwhile, another priority is bouncing back from the loss to the Habs.

"We play 40 minutes a game without Sid on the ice so we're comfortable with knowing how we need to play and how it's going to be," coach Dan Bylsma said after the Montreal game. "We're going to keep playing exactly that same way and figuring out ways to win hockey games."

Who's hot -- The Pens have relied on contributions from the blue line all season long and recently, Alex Goligoski has provided a boost, producing 5 points in his past two games. The Wild's Martin Havlat,has points in four of his past five games.

Injury report -- Crosby is ruled out for about a week, while Cooke remains questionable. Minnesota's Antti Miettinen is doubtful with a bruised leg, while goaltender Niklas Backstrom is questionable with a lower body injury.

Stat pack -- The Penguins are second in the Eastern Conference in total goals scored, trailing the Atlanta Thrashers by one (137). … Minnesota is 11-3-2 when hard-hitting forward Cal Clutterbuck gets a point.

Puck drop -- Not seeing Backstrom, who's been battling his injury for the last couple of weeks, is no boon to the Penguins. Jose Theodore, signed as his backup after Josh Harding was hurt, has won three straight starts and is 16-1-1-2 in his last 20 starts against the Penguins.

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