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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. EDT

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

streak.

"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.

"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

rest."

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

streak.

"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.

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