The Pittsburgh Penguins are enjoying another win streak while getting contributions from players other than just Evgeni Malkin. They’ll try to stretch their run to six straight victories when they host a Phoenix Coyotes club looking to avoid a third straight defeat Monday night.
Malkin is tied with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead with 80 points. The superstar center has 18 points in an 8-2-0 stretch for Pittsburgh (38-21-5).
He was one of five Penguins to score in a 5-1 win at Colorado on Saturday. Steve Sullivan, Arron Asham, Richard Park and Deryk Engelland also had goals on a night when James Neal and Jordan Staal — who have combined for 51 — had none.
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“We can’t leave the scoring all up to ‘Geno’ (Malkin), ‘Staalsy’ (Staal) and ‘Nealer’ (Neal),” Asham said. “We’ve got to spread it out. That’s how good hockey teams win, and that’s how you’re going to win in the playoffs.”
The Penguins, on their longest run since winning eight straight Jan. 13-31, will begin a four-game homestand. They continue to maintain a lead for the No. 4 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round.
Phoenix (33-23-9) is in a tight race for the Pacific Division lead as it begins a brief trip that ends Tuesday in Columbus. Both of these games figure to be difficult after the Coyotes fell 5-2 at home to the league-worst Blue Jackets on Saturday.
“We got two hard road games here back-to-back,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We go in and want to play loose, I don’t like our chances. If we go and play like we can and play a committed game like we know we have to, I think we’ll go on the road and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Phoenix went 11-0-1 in February to gain the Pacific lead before falling 4-2 at home to Calgary on Thursday and getting outscored 3-0 in the third period Saturday.
“We recognize we don’t have two games to give away,” captain Shane Doan said. “At the same time, we have to go back to what was making us successful the previous (12).”
Mike Smith has yielded seven goals to lose his last two starts after posting a 1.42 goals-against average in winning his previous 11. Smith is 3-4-0 with a 2.51 GAA in eight starts against Pittsburgh and will probably start, as backup Jason LaBarbera has surrendered 16 goals in losing all three starts to the Penguins.
Marc-Andre Fleury, 2-1-0 with a 2.25 GAA against Phoenix, has won five straight starts with a 1.77 GAA.
The Penguins should have a distinct advantage with their penalty killing – among the best in the NHL at 88.9 percent – as they go up against a Coyotes team last in the league on the power play at 13.5 percent.
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang missed the Colorado game after taking an inadvertent hit to the head from Dallas’ Eric Nystrom on Wednesday. Letang’s status is uncertain for this contest.
Malkin had six points as Pittsburgh won both matchups last season. Phoenix went 8-2-1 in the 11 meetings prior to 2010-11.