Florida (15-16-0) at Pittsburgh (22-10-2)

Cloudy Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 28° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Wed Dec 22, 2010
  • TV: RIS, FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Pittsburgh Penguins were playing awfully well over the past month with Sidney Crosby(notes) carrying the load. With Evgeni Malkin(notes) heating up, Pittsburgh might be ready to take its game to another level offensively.

Malkin has five goals in three games since returning from a knee injury while Crosby’s point streak has hit 21 games, surges the Penguins’ All-Star centers hope to continue Wednesday night against the visiting Florida Panthers.

Crosby’s excellent individual play has been well-documented, as he produced 14 goals and nine assists during his team’s 12-game winning streak from Nov. 17-Dec. 11.

Pittsburgh (22-10-2) was winning despite little production from Malkin, who only scored once during the first eight games of the streak before missing the final four due to injury.

Malkin scored all three of his team’s goals as the Penguins dropped the first two games after the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner returned, but he wouldn’t let them lose Monday. Malkin tied a career high with five points, with Crosby setting up both of his goals and scoring one of his own to extend his streak in a 6-1 rout of Phoenix.

“He was playing unbelievable,” Crosby said. “It’s really fun to see a teammate take over a game like that and when he is playing like that, I think he pushes everyone to raise their level. I was just trying to keep up with him and make sure that I was there to create things when he was open.”

Crosby has done exactly that over the past three games. He’s set up all five of Malkin’s goals - three of which have come on a once-struggling power play that’s now scored five times in its last 12 chances.

“It’s always scary when you have those two guys on the ice at the same time,” defenseman Kris Letang(notes) said. “They’re playing great together. The chemistry is really good. Geno is a tremendous player. I think he can be one of the best players in the league, one of the top two.”

The Penguins won’t be the only team on the Consol Energy Center ice Wednesday that’s coming off a five-goal win, but Pittsburgh had to enjoy seeing the Panthers’ result Monday at Philadelphia. Florida got goals from five different sources in a 5-0 victory over the Flyers, who lead the Penguins by three points in the Atlantic Division.

The Panthers (15-16-0) have scored 11 goals in their last two games. They hadn’t scored more than four in their 18 contests prior to Friday’s 6-2 win over Buffalo.

“The key lately has been putting the puck in the net,” goaltender Tomas Vokoun(notes) said. “It takes the pressure off our defense and penalty killing. It’s easier to play with a lead.”

Getting the game’s initial goal has been critical for Florida. It’s 12-4-0 when scoring first and 3-12-0 when the opponent strikes first.

The Penguins got on the board first in Sunrise, Fla., on Nov. 22. Letang and Crosby scored on the power play in the first period, but it took Chris Conner’s(notes) tie-breaking tally in the third to lift Pittsburgh to a 3-2 win.

Crosby has five goals and two assists during a current five-game point streak versus Florida, while Malkin has a goal and six assists in those contests.

Prior to last month’s loss, though, the Panthers had earned at least a point in six straight games against Pittsburgh thanks to some spectacular efforts by Vokoun. The Penguins took an average of 44.8 shots in those games, but Vokoun had an outstanding .944 save percentage while going 2-0-4.

“He’s always played well against us,” Crosby said. “He’s an elite goalie in the league.”

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Wednesday, Dec 22