Penguins’ Crosby goes for 1,000 vs. Jets

PITTSBURGH — Few opponents have surrendered offense to Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby quite like the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise.

In 30 contest vs. the Jets/Thrashers, Crosby has racked up 47 points. That equates to an average of 1.57 points per game. Only the New York Islanders have allowed more on a per-game basis (1.75) to Crosby.

So it figures when the Penguins host the Jets on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena, Crosby has a fairly decent chance to score his 1,000 career point.

Sitting on 999 points, Crosby has been limited to two assists in his previous four games.

Despite the meager production, particularly by Crosby’s robust standards, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has been satisfied with his overall play as of late.

“Sid’s line, I don’t think they’ve gotten rewarded on the scoresheet the last few games for what they’re doing out there,” Sullivan said. “They’re creating a lot of opportunities. The puck hasn’t gone in for them the last couple of games. But certainly, we’ve really liked the line and what it’s been generating offensively for sure.”

The most recent incarnation of Crosby’s line has included longtime left winger Chris Kunitz and rookie Jake Guentzel at right wing. In Tuesday’s 4-0 home win against the Vancouver Canucks, Guentzel helped Crosby record his 999th career point by converting a give-and-go play into a goal during the third period.

“It’s pretty easy when you’re playing with the best player,” Guentzel said. “Obviously Sid made a great play.”

Listed as a center, Guentzel has primarily played as a left winger throughout his short professional career.

“He’s played (right wing) a little bit,” Sullivan said. “When we decided to move him over there, I asked him. Not a lot but a little bit, he’s played it. He feels comfortable there. I told him we’ll try it. We’ll see how it goes. If we like it, we’ll stay with it. But nothing is etched in stone. We can always move him back to the left side. But we’ve liked what we’ve seen so far.”

The Jets have their own rookie right winger who has found a level of comfort in Patrik Laine. The No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, Laine recorded a hat trick in Tuesday’s 5-2 home win against the Dallas Stars. That scoring outburst followed a slump of five games without a goal.

With 26 goals, Laine trailed Crosby by four for the league lead through Tuesday. His goal output isn’t the only positive about Laine’s game.

“I would say that release is extraordinary,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “He gets the puck on and off his stick so fast that you can’t find it. When you’re assessing Laine and where he’s at … if he didn’t score the three, I could have still come out and said that was his best game of the season. All the other pieces to his game were NHL right-on. Battles, positioning, finishing routes, finishing a check.”

Winnipeg’s goaltending situation is uncertain. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, sidelined the past three games due to an undisclosed injury, practiced Wednesday and accompanied the team on its trip to Pittsburgh.

“I don’t know the answer to that yet to be honest with you,” said Maurice. “Goalies are different on lower-body injuries. They can be strong but we have to push them really hard. There’s a chance. We wouldn’t bring him if we weren’t thinking there was some chance.”

Connor Hellebuyck has started in net the past three games for the Jets. Matt Murray is expected to start for the Penguins.