Penguins-Jets Preview

As much as the Pittsburgh Penguins are feeling Sidney Crosby’s
absence, Evgeni Malkin is doing an admirable job trying to lessen
the impact.

Malkin will try to extend a six-game point streak when the
Penguins visit the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

Crosby, who missed much of last season and nearly two months of
this one recovering from a concussion, is having a recurrence of
symptoms and has no timetable to return after last playing Dec.
5.

The Penguins (19-11-4) went 5-2-1 after Crosby, who had two
goals and 10 assists, made his season debut Nov. 21. They’ve gone
3-3-0 since he went down, but have won their last two – 8-3 over
Buffalo on Saturday and 3-2 Tuesday over league-leading Chicago
.

Pittsburgh had a 3-0 lead at the end of two against the
Blackhawks, then had to survive an onslaught to get two points
after being outshot 19-4 in the final period. James Neal scored his
team-high 19th goal while Malkin, who had five points against the
Sabres, had three assists against Chicago.

Since Crosby went down, Malkin has six goals and nine
assists.

“He is definitely demanding the puck right now,” said linemate
Chris Kunitz. “He wants to make plays, and he is having success. He
is just a dominating player when he wants the puck.”

Malkin’s point streak is his longest since a 15-game run Jan.
16-March 4, 2010.

Malkin missed Pittsburgh’s 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Oct. 17 with
a sore right knee, but the Penguins are 14-3-2 against the Jets
franchise when he plays. Malkin has nine goals and 13 assists
during an 11-1-0 run against the former Thrashers when he’s in the
lineup.

Pittsburgh is looking to win three in a row for the first time
since a five-game streak Oct. 18-27, but realizes it will have its
hands full in Winnipeg, where the Jets are 12-5-1.

“It’s going to be a good challenge for our team,” Kunitz said.
“We know that their fans get into it. .. We’ve got to play the same
as we did in the first two periods against Chicago and apply
pressure to them.”

Pittsburgh will be without defenseman Deryk Engelland, who was
suspended three games for hitting Chicago forward Marcus Kruger in
the head during Tuesday’s game.

The Penguins should at least be well-rested, while Winnipeg
(16-13-5) is playing on back-to-back nights following a 4-0 win
over Montreal on Thursday.

Blake Wheeler had two goals and an assist and Ondrej Pavelec
recorded 27 saves for his third shutout this season and second this
month. Pavelec had lost his previous two games, but is 5-2-1 with a
1.81 goals-against average in December, surrendering two goals or
fewer in all but one of his eight starts.

“He looked solid. Like he was really in control,” coach Claude
Noel said. “It was nice to see him play like that, but he’s been
playing like that more than just tonight.”

Friday’s game is the last in a stretch of 11 of 12 games at the
MTS Centre, and Winnipeg’s 7-2-1 performance at home in that span
has it entering the night tied for eighth in the Eastern
Conference.

“We’re gaining some confidence at home and enjoy being in the
race,” Noel said. “It’ll be interesting (Friday). We’ll have to
take short shifts and we’re going to have to play smart.

“Pittsburgh is going to be rested and ready to go.”