Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins can't seem to score these days. As a result, they've dropped five consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Crosby's rookie season.
A date with the league's worst defensive team might be the perfect solution.
The Penguins will try to put an end to their losing streak and their offensive drought on Tuesday when they host the last-place Atlanta Thrashers.
Pittsburgh (19-17-4) has finished in the top seven in the NHL in goals in the two seasons that Evgeni Malkin and Crosby have both been on the team. Malkin and Crosby rank first and third in the league in points this season, but lately they've been struggling - and so have the Penguins.
Malkin has 60 points, but he hasn't scored a goal in eight games - tied for the longest drought of his career - and he has only two of his league-leading 45 assists in the last seven contests.
Crosby, meanwhile, has only one goal and two assists in his last seven games.
Pittsburgh hasn't scored more than two goals in that stretch, and on Monday was shut out for the second time in the past two weeks. The Penguins went 0-for-8 on the power play - including a lengthy two-man advantage - and lost 4-0 on the road to the New York Rangers.
"I don't think you ever expect not to score," Crosby said. "Was it lack of effort? No. It happens in hockey sometimes. You run into tough nights, and we're there right now. We've got to find a way to put it in."
The Penguins haven't dropped six in a row since a 10-game losing streak from Jan 6-23, 2006.
The power play has been Pittsburgh's biggest problem. The Penguins were among the NHL's top five with the man advantage in each of the last two seasons, but rank 20th midway through 2008-09, converting 16.5 percent of the time.
That unit has been especially dreadful lately, as Pittsburgh is scoreless in 32 power-play chances over its last seven games. That's the longest stretch without a power-play goal for the Penguins since an eight-game drought Dec. 16-31, 2003.
The Penguins might find scoring easier against the Thrashers (13-22-5), allowing a league-high 3.65 goals per game. They're also the NHL's worst team at killing penalties, allowing a goal 27.5 percent of the time.
Atlanta has dropped five of its last six games, and fell into the Southeast Division cellar after Sunday's 4-1 loss at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning - the previous last-place club.
Coach John Anderson didn't hide his displeasure.
"I've got to question whether anybody cares in that locker room right now," Anderson said. "It's a joke."
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has started three of the past four games, as he appears fully recovered from a stiff back that sidelined him for nearly two months. He's 1-3-0 with a 2.96 goals-against average in those contests, a minor step up from his 3.39 overall GAA that ranks 46th of 48 qualifying goalies.
Lehtonen, however, is 6-1-2 with a 2.47 GAA in his career against the Penguins. He missed both games against Pittsburgh earlier this season.
Crosby had a goal and two assists in a 3-2 Penguins win in Atlanta on Nov. 20, and had two assists in a 6-3 victory there on Dec. 18.