Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 2/12/12
After missing last year's playoffs, Evgeni Malkin has done more than his share as the Pittsburgh Penguins seek to return to the postseason despite the continued absence of Sidney Crosby. Malkin and the Penguins try to match their longest home winning streak of the season Sunday night when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time since Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinals. After totaling six goals during a 1-2-1 road trip, Pittsburgh (31-19-5) returned home Saturday and exceeded that output in a single 8-5 victory over Winnipeg - its fifth consecutive win at CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins now can match their six-game home winning streak from Oct. 20-Nov. 21. Malkin matched a career high with five points (one goal, four assists) Saturday, giving him a league-high 67 on the season - five more than the Lightning's Steven Stamkos and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux. Malkin's linemate Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang also matched their respective career highs for points with four and three, respectively. Malkin's other linemate, James Neal, scored his 29th goal and added an assist, as did Jordan Staal in his return from a knee injury. "We talked before the game. We wanted to just move the puck," Malkin said. "We felt great, everyone." Malkin missed last spring's playoff series with Tampa Bay after undergoing surgery on two torn knee ligaments. Crosby was also sidelined with the concussion symptoms that still plague him. Pittsburgh nearly topped Tampa Bay despite the absences of the two stars. The Lightning ousted the Penguins only with a 1-0 win at Pittsburgh in Game 7. Tampa Bay won three road contests in that series as it rallied from a 3-1 deficit. The Lightning (24-24-6) went 6-16-3 through their first 25 road games of this season but are 3-0-1 over their last four. They improved to 7-1-2 in their last 10 games overall after a 2-1 victory at Buffalo on Saturday. "We know how well we play at home. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could win on the road, as well," Stamkos said. Tampa Bay split two home games with Pittsburgh earlier this season, winning 4-1 on Nov. 17 and losing 6-3 on Jan. 15 as Malkin scored the final three goals. Dwayne Roloson started the November win for the Lightning and might get the call again Sunday. Including postseason, the veteran has limited the Penguins to five total goals while winning four straight against them. He's riding a three-game winning streak in Pittsburgh. Usual Tampa Bay starter Mathieu Garon is 1-2-0 with a 5.11 GAA in three career starts versus the Penguins. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said his starting goaltender will be a gametime decision. Marc-Andre Fleury has given up three goals in each of the matchups with Tampa Bay this season. Backup Brent Johnson, meanwhile, has won three consecutive starts against the Lightning. If Johnson makes his 11th start of the season, he'll have to contend with a red-hot Stamkos. The All-Star center, who has a league-best 37 goals - seven more than Malkin - scored for the fourth straight game Saturday and has 10 points during a six-game streak. Stamkos has two assists in the season series with the Penguins.
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