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Game Preview: Pens’ look to solve Halak and extend winning streak

Penguins Game Day

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-3-0) @ St. Louis Blues (3-1-2)
When: October 23, 2010 | Where: Scottrade Center 8:00 p.m. EST
The Penguins have yet to lose in four road games this season. The St. Louis Blues are unbeaten in three games at home. One of the teams will leave with a blemish on their record as the two meet tonight at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

PENGUINS VS BLUES

The Penguins handed the Blues a 5-1 drubbing in their only meeting last season, an October home game for Pittsburgh. The Pens beat St. Louis 6-3 in November 2008, the last meeting in St. Louis.
The primary matchup Saturday will be the Pens offense against the St. Louis goaltending. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the suddenly potent Pittsburgh offense will try to solve new addition Jaroslav Halak who stifled the Penguins during their second round matchup against the Montreal Canadiens last spring.
Prior to Friday night’s 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues were 6th in the NHL in goals against per game (2.2), while the Penguins were second overall offensively (3.4 goals per game).

FAMILIAR FOES

The Blues defeated the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night on the strength of a 23-save performance from Halak. Blues head coach Davis Payne will go right back to Halak tonight.
Halak effectively ended the Penguins’ 2010 postseason run with a number of staggering performances that helped carry the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Overall, Halak is 3-1-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .911 save percentage.
With Halak back between the pipes again tonight, Pittsburgh won’t go up against former Penguin Ty Conklin.
Conklin received a loss in overtime in his only start this season, and has a line of 1.85-.920 this season. Perhaps one of the strongest backups in the league, Conklin helped the Penguins put together a mid-season playoff run in 2008, in which the Penguins eventually finished second in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.

HOT, OF THE SCORCHING VARIETY

Since the Pens ironed out the early season wrinkles and began their current four game streak, Crosby and Malkin have been two of the best players in the league. Both are riding five-game point streaks, collecting 17 combined points during the streak. The pair has 19 points altogether.
They were perhaps solely responsible for Thursday’s win at Nashville, a game in which Crosby landed two goals and an assist and Malkin landed a goal and an assist on the game-tying goal.
Crosby is continuing his all-world play from 2009-10. Malkin is doing a fine impression of the 2008-09 campaign in which he collected the Art Ross and Conn Smythe trophies. Perhaps most impressively, the pair was even more dominating when on the same line, good news for the first power play unit.

EMERGING

St. Louis is a team on the rise, and a sleeper team on many NHL experts list to crack the top-eight in a very competitive Western Conference on the strength of youngsters like David Perron, T.J. Oshie and David Backes and No. 1 goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
T.J. Oshie leads the Blues in points (7) and assists (7). Perron landed two goals (4) in Friday’s win over Chicago, and Halak made 23 saves on 25 shots. Overall, the Blues are fourth place in the Central Division, maybe the toughest division in hockey (also boasting the Cup-winner Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators.)

FOURS

The Penguins have won four straight games. They have also won all four games away from the CONSOL Energy Center this season. The St. Louis Blues, unbeaten at home in 2010-11, go for their fourth home win of the season tonight.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Pens bring their improving power play up against the league’s 23rd-ranked penalty killing unit, as of Friday. The Blues are stopping just under 79 percent of opponents chances (23rd overall), while their overall defense is 6th in the league.
The Penguins have improved the man-advantage unit to 11th overall, but would like to bring the number up from 17.8 percent success. The Pens were 0-5 on the power play Thursday at Nashville.

DEFENSE

As stated, the Blues boast the league’s 6th-ranked defense in terms of goals against.
The Penguins, while missing their top-two defensive defensemen for most of the young season in Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek, have received a great amount of scoring from the back end.
According to Jason Seidling of the Penguins team official website, Pittsburgh defensemen have figured in on 22 of 27 goals through eight games, and have accounted for 27 total points (6G-21A).
Pittsburgh’s defensive unit will get a boost tonight with the return of Brooks Orpik who is expected to be paired with defenseman Deryk Engelland.

Johnson to start in goal

Goaltender Brent Johnson will be back in goal tonight for Pittsburgh, making his fourth start in five games.
Johnson has a perfect 4-0 record with a 1.49 GAA and .950 save percentage on the season. Johnson won a career-high 34 games for St. Louis back in 2001-02.

Pittsburgh’s Top 5

1. Sidney Crosby – 8GP – 6G – 5A – 11PTS
2. Evgeni Malkin – 8GP – 3G – 5A – 8PTS
3. Kris Letang – 8GP – 2G – 6A – 8PTS
4. Mark Letestu – 8GP – 4G – 3A – 7PTS
5. Alex Goligoski – 8GP – 3G – 4A – 7PTS
*Defenseman Paul Martin (1G-6A) is tied with Mark Letestu and Alex Goligoski with 7 points.

Penguins Lineup

Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Mike Comrie – Mark Letestu – Evgeni Malkin
Matt Cooke – Max Talbot – Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi – Craig Adams – Eric Godard
Defensemen
Paul Martin – Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik – Deryk Engelland
Alex Goligoski – Ben Lovejoy/ Andrew Hutchinson *GTD*

Blues Lineup

David Perron – David Backes – T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald – Patrik Burgland – Brad Boyes
Alexander Steen – Jay McClement – Matt D’Agostini
Brad Winchester – Vladimir Sobotka – BJ Crombeen
Defensemen
Carlo Colaicovo – Erik Johnson
Eric Brewer – Roman Polak
Barret Jackman – Alex Pietrangelo

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