Coyotes-Penguins Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had four days off to figure out

what went wrong in a pair of losses that snapped their 12-game

winning streak.

Even on the best stretch of his career, Sidney Crosby is trying

to determine what’s wrong with his own game.

Crosby extended his personal point streak to 20 games in the

Penguins’ two losses but didn’t register a shot, an issue he’ll

hope to correct Monday night when Pittsburgh returns to the ice

against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.

The Penguins (21-10-2) matched the eighth-longest winning streak

in NHL history by pulling out 12 straight victories from Nov.

17-Dec. 11, but that run ended Tuesday in a 3-2 loss at

Philadelphia.

They fell again 4-1 at home to the New York Rangers the next

night, and although Crosby had three assists in the two losses to

extend his career-best streak, something wasn’t quite right for

Pittsburgh’s captain. He was held without a shot in both games

after averaging nearly four during the first 18 games of his

run.

“Even though you get points, sometimes you don’t always play the

greatest,” Crosby said Sunday. “The last few games, I haven’t

really been too happy. … I’ve got to be better.

“I’m always able to evaluate myself pretty critically after a

game, and I think that’s how you need to be. That doesn’t change

whether you’re getting on a streak like I am. If not, I’d still do

the same thing.”

Crosby’s turned himself into more of a goal-scorer the past two

seasons – his 77 goals since the beginning of 2009-10 lead the

league – and the Penguins certainly benefit when he’s shooting

instead of focusing on setting up teammates. Pittsburgh is 14-1-1

when Crosby has four shots or more and 7-9-1 when he takes three or

fewer.

Crosby’s six shots at Phoenix on Nov. 6 led to one goal in a 4-3

shootout win, and he assisted on a tally from Chris Kunitz, who’s

expected back Monday after missing the two losses with an

undisclosed injury.

Pittsburgh hasn’t had four days off between games this season,

but generally a little rest hasn’t provided much of a boost. It’s

4-4-0 when it’s has at least two days off.

“It’s been a time where we’ve judged where our team is at,

health-wise and how many games we’ve played,” coach Dan Bylsma

said. “It’s also the first time that we had a work day – to get

some work with pace and speed and get that tempo and work in the

practice that we can use in the game.”

Phoenix (15-9-7) wraps up the Atlantic Division portion of its

six-game road swing Monday after an eventful visit to the New York

area. The Coyotes fell 3-0 at New Jersey on Wednesday, then blew a

two-goal lead in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers on

Thursday.

It appeared they were on their way to another loss Saturday

against the dreadful Islanders, but Martin Hanzal’s late goal sent

the game to overtime. Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Kyle Turris

scored in a shootout to lift the Coyotes to a 4-3 win.

“Obviously, there’s some things in our game that have to

improve,” coach Dave Tippett told NHL.com. “Fortunately, we found a

way.”

Jason LaBarbera made 41 saves in his second straight start with

Ilya Bryzgalov nursing an upper-body injury, and he’s likely to get

the call again Monday.

LaBarbera is 0-2-0 with a 5.53 goals-against average in two

career starts versus Pittsburgh.