Sports Network | October 21, 2010
(Sports Network) - Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are getting some surprise help on offense from Mark Letestu. The high-scoring duo hopes it will help Pittsburgh pick up its first victory in Nashville since 1999.
The Penguins shoot for a fourth straight win overall tonight in a meeting with the Predators, who are wrapping a four-game homestand at Bridgestone Arena.
After losing three of four to start the season, the Penguins have notched 13 goals in winning their last three games. Two of those have come from Letestu, who came into this season with just one goal in 10 games but has notched four goals and seven points in his first seven games of this year.
Brent Johnson made his fourth start in net this year and turned away 32 shots to improve to 4-0-0 on the season.
"It's really nice to play with the lead," Johnson said. "I thought in the third period, they came out looking for every opportunity they could to go to the net. Our penalty killing was really good. We need to just keep rolling, that's all that matters."
It is unknown if Johnson will start tonight's opener of a three-game road trip or Marc-Andre Fleury, the team's No. 1 netminder to start the season who is winless in three starts on the year. Johnson is 5-2-0 with a tie and 1.60 goals-against average lifetime versus the Predators, while Fleury is 1-2-1 with a 2.45 GAA when facing them.
Whoever starts the game will be trying to backstop the Pens to their first win at Nashville since Feb. 13, 1999. Pittsburgh has lost six straight in the Music City since, while the Predators are 7-1 with a tie in the last nine overall meetings.
Nashville opened its current homestand with a victory over St. Louis, but has lost consecutive overtime decisions to Washington and Calgary since. The Preds hosted the Flames on Tuesday and dropped a 1-0 decision.
Making his first appearance since suffering a lower-body injury in Nashville's season-opener on Oct. 9, Pekka Rinne made 34 saves as the Preds fell to 3-0-2 on the season.
"We'll take any points that we can, but I thought we had a lot of chances, especially in the first period," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "I had a feeling it was going to be a 1-0 game."
Nashville also got Martin Erat back in the lineup for the first time in four games due to back spasms, but defenseman Ryan Suter left the contest in the first period due to a lower-body injury and was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Rinne has never started versus the Penguins, but did pick up a win over them in a relief appearance on Jan. 8, 2009 after making 17 saves on 18 shots faced.
Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik has missed the last five games due to a groin injury, but returned to practice on Tuesday and is questionable for tonight.