Minnesota (4-9-0) at Pittsburgh (11-2-0)

  • Game info: 7:30 pm EDT Sat Oct 31, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Pittsburgh Penguins are without the injured Evgeni Malkin(notes), but the reigning Stanley Cup champions are on the cusp of taking sole possession of the NHL record for points in October and Sidney Crosby(notes) is playing a vital role.

Crosby and the Penguins look to move atop the league Saturday night as they host the Minnesota Wild, who will try to avoid their ninth straight road loss.

The Penguins (11-2-0) are tied with Colorado for the league lead with 22 points, matching Detroit (1997, 2001 and 2005), the New York Islanders (1982), New York Rangers (1990) and St. Louis (1997) for the best opening month in NHL history.

The Pens’ hot start also eclipsed their previous best of 18 points set in 1992.

With the Avalanche idle until Sunday, Pittsburgh is in position to take sole ownership of the record at the expense of the Western Conference’s worst team.

Crosby has been key by leading Pittsburgh with nine goals and 16 points. The three-time All-Star is on a six-game point streak, during which he’s totaled five goals and six assists.

That has softened the blow of Malkin’s strained right shoulder, which is expected to sideline him for two to three weeks. The injury forced last season’s NHL scoring champion and Conn Smythe winner to miss his first game in three years after attempting to play through the injury.

Malkin has four goals and leads the Pens with 10 assists.

Without Malkin Friday, Crosby engineered a comeback from a two-goal deficit to help the Penguins beat Columbus 4-3 in a shootout. He had two assists - including one on the tying goal by Alex Goligoski(notes) with 2:17 to play - before seeing his shootout attempt go through the pads of Steve Mason(notes) and trickle inches over the goal line for the tiebreaker.

“It shows a lot of character from our captain. He goes out and he’s never quitting on anything,” said left wing Chris Kunitz(notes), who had a short-handed goal assisted by Crosby.

Crosby has a goal and three assists in three games against the Wild (4-9-1), but all that scoring came in a 4-2 victory at Minnesota on Oct. 30, 2007. He was held without a point and missed his shootout attempt in the lone matchup last season, a 2-1 home defeat on Nov. 18.

The Penguins are 2-5-1 with a tie all-time against the Wild, and haven’t beaten them at Mellon Arena since a 2-1 victory on Feb. 14, 2001. They’ve gone 0-3-1 while being outscored 18-5 since.

Minnesota is looking to carry some momentum from Friday’s 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in order to snap their lengthy road skid.

The Wild haven’t won as the visitor since beating the Blue Jackets 6-3 to conclude the 2008-09 season, and they last dropped nine in a row on the road during a franchise-record 11-game slide from Nov. 20, 2006-Jan. 9, 2007.

Minnesota plays five of the next seven away from home.

Petr Sykora(notes) may have broken out of a scoring slump after getting a goal and an assist Friday, two days after being a healthy scratch. The right wing had managed one goal in the previous six games after scoring 25 with 21 assists for Pittsburgh last season.

He has two goals and three assists in his last four games against the Penguins, but hasn’t faced them since April 13, 2006, when he scored for the Rangers in a loss at Pittsburgh.

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Saturday, Oct 31