Sports Network | December 4, 2010
(Sports Network) - Penguins forward Sidney Crosby continues to find new ways to help his club to victory.
Fresh off his second hat trick in three games, Crosby will once again reach into his bag of tricks as Pittsburgh tries to win nine in a row for the first time in over 11 years in tonight's road matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
The league leader with 44 points, Crosby notched his seventh career three-goal game and first natural hat trick in Thursday's 3-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. It marked his second straight home game with a hat trick after also doing so last Saturday versus the Flames, and he moved into a tie with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals with 21.
Crosby has 15 goals and 14 assists during a 14-game point streak.
"That's something you expect from him, because we see him every day," Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said of Crosby. "But it still amazes me how good he is, how hard he works to get better."
Fleury made 20 saves for the Penguins, who have won eight straight for the first time since Dec. 23, 2007-Jan. 10, 2008. The club hasn't won nine in a row since a 10-game run from Jan. 28-Feb. 15, 1999 and is 10-1-0 in its last 11 overall, having not lost in regulation since Nov. 10.
Pittsburgh also notched its fifth straight victory at home and carries a five- game road winning streak into this game. Pittsburgh is 9-3-1 as the guest club this season and leads Philadelphia by two points for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Forward Evgeni Malkin is day-to-day with an unknown injury after not practicing on Friday, while center Maxime Talbot could miss this game after being hit by a shot during practice. He is expected to travel with the club though.
That could leave the Penguins short-handed as they try to deal the Blue Jackets a fifth loss in a row. Columbus hadn't lost consecutive games at all this season until this current slide, which was extended last night with a 5-0 loss in Buffalo.
R.J. Umberger had his franchise-record 10-game point streak end -- he had totaled three goals and 10 assists on the run -- and Mathieu Garon finished with 32 saves for the Blue Jackets, who had won five straight before this 0-3-1 stretch.
"We're in a tough time. We've got to stick together and get out of it," said Columbus captain Rick Nash after his club was shut out for the first time this season.
The Blue Jackets are 6-6-1 at home and have lost three of their last four as the host.
Crosby has one goal and seven assists in five games versus the Blue Jackets and had the game-winning shootout tally in last year's 4-3 victory in Columbus. The Penguins have won three of their last four versus the Jackets and snapped a three-game series road losing streak.
Fleury, who has won seven straight starts, is 2-0-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average in his career versus Columbus.