Avalanche-Penguins Preview

The Associated Press

It comes as little surprise that the Pittsburgh Penguins sit atop the Eastern Conference with Sidney Crosby holding the early edge in the scoring race.

Few may have expected the Colorado Avalanche to get off to such a hot start under first-year coach Patrick Roy.

Pittsburgh seeks a fifth straight victory while looking to remain perfect at home Monday night as it faces a Colorado team that has yet to lose on the road.

The Penguins (7-1-0) finished with the most points in the East in the lockout-shortened season, and they're off to their best start since beginning 9-1-0 in 2009-10 - the season after Crosby captained the team to the Stanley Cup.

Crosby scored and added two assists in Saturday's 4-3 shootout win over Vancouver and leads the league with 17 points. He has recorded at least two in four straight and has a point in Pittsburgh's first eight games for the first time in his career.

''I don't feel that different to be honest,'' Crosby said, comparing this season's start to others.

Three victories during the Penguins' winning streak have come by one goal, and they've won their first five home games for the first time since taking their first seven in the 1995 lockout-shortened season.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves against the Canucks and is 7-0-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average.

"I think as a group, we're finding ways to win," Crosby said. "(Saturday) wasn't our best game, but (Fleury) shut the door when we needed him to and we found some ways to get back in the game. We still want to get better."

The Avalanche have done just that, getting off to a 7-1-0 start after finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference in the 2013 season. They've won each of their four road games after beating Buffalo 4-2 on Saturday, bouncing back from Thursday's 4-2 loss to Detroit.

Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and captain Gabriel Landeskog each had a goal and an assist against the Sabres.

''We were talking in here that this team doesn't lose two in a row,'' Duchene said. ''Right now, we're rolling, we're feeling good. We've got to get as many points as we can because we're going to go through some adversity in the season and we've got to be ready for it."

Duchene has a team-high six goals and has seven points in his last five contests.

"(Duchene and O'Reilly) have been dominant, to be honest with you," Roy said. "What I like about them is the consistency that they're bringing every night. That's a good sign of maturity. They start to get mature and they show a lot of poise and good things out there."

Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, is showing plenty of maturity for an 18-year-old. MacKinnon, who has a goal to go along with a team-best six assists, has been compared to Crosby with the two both being natives of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Crosby has been impressed with the rookie so far.

''I don't think you see too many young guys that can shoot the puck like he can in their first year,'' Crosby said. ''I think he's got all the tools - really good hands, he works hard, and he's not afraid to go into traffic areas and create chances that way."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 28 saves in the win over Buffalo, but Roy could elect to go back to Semyon Varlamov, who is 5-1-0 with a 1.68 GAA.

Fleury, who has won his last five starts with a 1.98 GAA against the Avalanche, made 35 saves as Pittsburgh beat Colorado 5-1 in the most recent meeting March 3, 2012, for its fourth straight win in the series.

Colorado forward Cody McLeod is suspended pending an in-person hearing with the league - expected to take place Monday - for an illegal hit on Detroit's Niklas Kronwall on Thursday.

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