Blackhawks-Penguins Preview

In 1992, the Pittsburgh Penguins swept the Chicago Blackhawks to

capture the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. Given how both teams

have performed so far this season, it’s not out of the realm of

possibility that they could meet again this coming spring.

In a possible championship preview, surging Sidney Crosby leads

the Penguins on Saturday night against a team that hopes its core

of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith can help the

Blackhawks post a rare win at Mellon Arena.

After hoisting the Cup last season with a thrilling seven-game

series win against Detroit, the Penguins (20-9-0) showed no signs

of a championship hangover as they won nine of their first 10.

However, that was followed by a 3-6-0 slide, which included a

season-high four-game losing streak and consecutive shutout

defeats.

Since then, the Penguins have resumed playing like champions.

They’ve won eight of 10 – totaling 37 goals in the victories – to

move into a tie with Washington for first place in the Eastern

Conference.

Crosby has been nothing short of dominant recently, with 11

points in his last three games. Last Saturday, he had a hat trick

and two assists in an 8-3 home win over the New York Rangers. Two

nights later at Madison Square Garden, Crosby scored twice and

added an assist as Pittsburgh swept the home-and-home set with a

5-2 victory.

He again had two goals and an assist Thursday as the Penguins

posted a 4-1 triumph over improving Colorado.

“He’s going great right now,” teammate Bill Guerin said of

Crosby, who leads Pittsburgh with 19 goals and 36 points. “And

that’s obviously great for our team.”

Crosby has two assists in two career games versus the Blackhawks

and didn’t play in the Penguins’ 5-4 overtime win on Feb. 27 in

Chicago because of a groin injury.

Another player who has been great for Pittsburgh of late is

Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s allowed 11 goals while winning six

straight starts. He’s 3-1-0 with a shutout and 2.93 goals-against

average in four career starts against the Blackhawks.

Stopping Crosby and beating Fleury could help Chicago (17-7-3)

solve its Steel City woes. Since October 1991, and including

postseason play, the Blackhawks are 1-9-1 with three ties in

Pittsburgh. With a 5-4 shootout loss in its most recent visit Feb.

14, 2007, Chicago fell to 0-4-1 with two ties since its last win

there Feb. 22, 1997 – nearly a decade earlier.

Another way the Blackhawks could help themselves is by keeping

the puck out of the net. Chicago has surrendered at least three

goals in 11 of its last 14 visits to Pittsburgh.

Cristobal Huet is 0-3-0 with a 3.59 goals-against average in his

last four games against the Penguins, but blanked them during his

only career start at Mellon Arena. He needed to make just 11 saves

Oct. 10, 2003, as Los Angeles posted a 3-0 win.

The Blackhawks will have to bounce back quickly after their

eight-game home winning streak was snapped with a 4-1 loss to

Nashville on Friday. Toews scored his seventh goal for Chicago in

his first game after signing a lucrative contract extension

Thursday.

Kane and Keith, also the recipients of long-term deals, didn’t

register a point. Kane had a team high-tying five shots on goal

while Keith logged more than 26 minutes.

“Tonight we tried to overdo some things, especially after

Jonathan scored,” Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We

maybe thought it was going to come easy and that doesn’t happen in

this league.”

Though the Blackhawks are 1-2-1 in their last four, they

continue to lead the Central Division and are tied with Calgary for

second in the West behind San Jose.

This is Chicago’s only regular-season meeting with

Pittsburgh.