Thrashers visit Penguins aiming to extend winning streak

By Kate Hedlin
Stats Writer

Atlanta (29-35-6) at Pittsburgh (37-26-8), 7:30 p.m. EST

PITTSBURGH (AP) — With Sidney Crosby heating up, it’s no
surprise that the Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the
league’s best teams recently. Without Ilya Kovalchuk in the
lineup, it’s pretty remarkable that the Atlanta Thrashers are
also surging.

Crosby and the Penguins look to snap Atlanta’s franchise-record
six-game winning streak Tuesday night when the teams meet at
Mellon Arena.

Pittsburgh has come away with at least a point in each of its
last 10 games, going 8-0-2 since Feb. 25 to climb into fifth
place in the Eastern Conference – two points behind Philadelphia
for the fourth spot but only four ahead of ninth-place Florida.

The Penguins earned a big home win over conference-leading
Boston on Sunday, rallying for four goals in the third period of
the 6-4 victory. Crosby had three assists, Chris Kunitz scored
two goals and added an assist and Petr Sykora put them ahead to
stay with his goal 9:29 mark into the third.

Crosby has four goals and seven assists in six games since
returning from a groin injury, and an active 10-game point

“It’s not something on my mind right now, I’m trying to do my
best and help with this last push here,” said Crosby, who also
has at least one point in each of his last five games against
the Thrashers. “It’s a big time for us. You see how tight the
games are now, every team is desperate and battling hard.”

With his team in a tight race, Evgeni Malkin has continued to
play despite an illness. Interim coach Dan Blysma told the
Penguins’ official Web site that the center was given the day
off from practice Monday to see a doctor, but the coach believes
he’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.

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“The last few days he hasn’t been feeling great, but that’s not
different from other times of the year when guys are sick,” he
said. “It was just a situation where it was best to see the
doctor and get it taken care of, rule things out and get some

Malkin has been held without a point the last two games. He
hasn’t gone scoreless in three straight games since a five-game
drought Feb. 27-March 6, 2007, when he was still a rookie.

Malkin has two goals and six assists against three games against
Atlanta this season – all Pittsburgh victories. The Penguins
have defeated the Thrashers four straight times dating to the
end of last season.

Meanwhile, Atlanta earned its club-record sixth straight win
Monday, beating Washington 5-1 at home as Tobias Enstrom and
Slava Kozlov each had a goal and an assist and goaltender Kari
Lehtonen recorded a career-high 49 saves.

The Thrashers have outscored opponents 23-9 during the winning

“Certainly as a coaching staff and a management staff, it makes
you feel good about your young players and the direction that we
are heading,” first-year coach John Anderson said. “There are
still lots of games left. We care about ourselves and we care
about each other.”

Anderson’s team has scored nine goals in the last two games
despite the absence of Kovalchuk. The Atlanta captain, out with
an upper-body injury, is fourth in the NHL with 36 goals. His
status for Tuesday isn’t known.