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Insider Only Penguins Game Day: Pens look to extend points streak to 8 games

Penguins Game Day

When: November 26 2010 | Where: Consol Energy Center
Pittsburgh enters Friday’s action riding a seven-game points streak. The Ottawa Senators have dropped five of their last seven and sit third in the Northeast Division, currently just outside the playoff picture. The Pens look to continue their winning ways over the Senators and keep pace with the league-leading Flyers Friday afternoon.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS OTTAWA SENATORS

The Ottawa Senators have been one of Pittsburgh’s biggest rivals since the beginning of the Crosby era. The teams have met in the postseason in three of the last four years and split their four-game series last regular season.
The Senators are one of the few teams Captain Sidney Crosby hasn’t made hay against. Crosby has 15 points in 18 regular season games against the Senators. He enters Friday’s game having produced 21 points (9G-12A) during his current ten-game scoring streak.
The Penguins handled Ottawa 5-2 in their first matchup October 18. Brent Johnson got the win, with goals from Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Mark Letestu, Pascal Dupuis and Kris Letang.
Ottawa is 5-5-0 in their last ten games but just 2-5 in their last seven. The Pens have won four straight, six of seven and have taken 13 of a possible 14 points since the Boston game on November 10.
PITTSBURGH
The Penguins are on a tear. After falling as far as tenth in the Conference, the Pens now trail the league-leading Flyers and Capitals by only four points.
13-8-2, 28 pts.
2nd Atlantic, t-4th East
5-5-1 Home, 8-3-1 Away
7-2-1 Last 10
The Penguins are surging. Marc-Andre Fleury has come alive, role players are producing and Crosby continues to produce night-in and night-out.
Marc-Andre Fleury has started each of the Penguins’ last seven games, improving his own record to 7-6-1 in the process. Fleury was a surprise go Wednesday in Buffalo after Brent Johnson sat with a lingering illness, and posted his first shutout of the season in response.
Head coach Dan Bylsma is expected to go back to Fleury this afternoon against the Ottawa Senators.
Fleury now sports a line of 2.68-.896 after starting the season 1-6-0 with a 3.54 GAA and a save percentage hovering near the .840 mark.
Pittsburgh’s team statistics continue to improve. The team is 9th in the NHL in goals for (3.0) and against (2.6). The penalty kill has been, and remains to be, money. The team has killed 89.5 percent of its chances, 3rd-best in the NHL. Only Montreal (90.0) and Boston (90.5) have been better.

The power play continues spinning in circles. After landing two goals against Florida, the PP went 0-fer against the Sabres, now ranked 24th in the NHL (14.6 percent).
OTTAWA
The Senators have fallen off of late, failing to produce offensively. Ottawa has been held to two goals or fewer six times during its seven game swoon, dropping the Senators to below .500 and third in the division.
10-11-1, 21 pts.
3rd Northeast, 9th East
6-5-0 Home, 4-6-1 Away
5-5-0 Last 10
The Senators have been mediocre on both sides of the puck this year. Ottawa is 25th in goals (2.4) and 26th in goals against (3.1). Ottawa hasn’t scored more than three goals since November 9 and have been outscored 27-12 during their last seven games.
Special teams have fared better. The Senators are 11th on the power play, featuring a top line including Jason Spezza, Captain Daniel Alfredsson and former Penguins Alex Kovalev and Sergei Gonchar. The Senators PK is ranked 20th at 81.3 percent.
Alfredsson leads Ottawa with 18 points – half that of Crosby’s team-leading 36. Ottawa has only six players with double-digit points this season, while more than three-quarters of the team has a minus rating.
Matt Carkner leads Ottawa with a plus-four rating. Despite being second on the team with 14 points, Gonchar is tied with a team-worst minus-12 rating.
NUMBERS AND NAMES
Ottawa’s defensive corps is reeling. The top-pairing of Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips are a combined minus-24 on the season. Youngster Erik Karlsson has been a healthy scratch in two straight after a minus-3 performance in his last outing.
Conversely, the Penguins defense is slowly turning into the unit many thought it would be at the outset of the season. Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek and Kris Letang have all missed time due to or have played through injuries.
Twenty-three games in, the unit is starting to come together (50 percent of the defensive roster this season is new). The Pens have allowed four goals only once during their points streak and have outscored opponents 23-13 in that stretch.
Pittsburgh is allowing the fewest shots against (27.3 per game) in the NHL. The defense is now 9th in goals against while the penalty kill has moved to third in the league, including a mark that is first among all teams in the month of November.
Pascal Dupuis scored the lone goal in Wednesday’s contest. Dupuis now has 10 points on the season (6G, 4A). Nine Penguins players have 10 or more points, including three defensemen.
Sidney Crosby’s point streak has extended to ten games. Crosby leads the Penguins in all major offensive categories except shots. Malkin has a team-high 100.
Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson continues to pace his team. Alfredsson leads Ottawa in goals (8), assists (10) and points (18). Alex Kovalev has 6 goals and 5 assists on the season, scoring his 1,000 career point this week, the third Russian-born player to do so (Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny).
Sergei Gonchar has had a star-crossed season. Gonchar has stabilized the Ottawa PP and leads the team with 25:14 TOI, but is also a minus-12. Gonchar’s fading defensive game was a concern (one magnified last postseason) during the summer, and appears to be a liability in Ottawa as it was late in his tenure in Pittsburgh.
The Senators have been little better in net. Brian Elliott is 9-7-0 in his 16 starts this season (3.14-.905).
Pascal Leclaire was the hopeful starter going into the season, but having battled injuries and inconsistency since his rookie campaign with the Blue Jackets, Leclaire hasn’t supplanted Elliott. Leclaire is 1-4-1 on the year (3.39-.887).
Marc-Andre Fleury’s continued improvement could give the Penguins the best 1-2 goaltending tandem in the game, assuming consistency. Fleury is 6-0-1 to coincide with the Penguins’ point streak, while Brent Johnson’s numbers (2.11-.927) remain among the top-ten goaltenders in the league.
Fleury has started seven straight and is likely to make it eight straight today.
The Penguins will look to get Johnson a start in one of the next three games, likely tomorrow afternoon against Calgary.
Projected Lineup
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Cooke – Talbot – Malkin
Conner – Letestu – Kennedy
Rupp – Adams – Asham
Defensemen
Orpik – Letang
Martin – Michalek
Goligoski – Engelland
Starting Goaltender: Marc Andre Fleury

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