Penguins-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 24, 2012
Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins are gaining confidence and victories. The All-Star break may be the only thing that can slow them. Malkin attempts to extend the longest goal-scoring streak of his career and help the Penguins earn a seventh straight win Tuesday night when they visit the St. Louis Blues. The league leader with 58 points, Malkin will be one of two Penguins representatives at Sunday's All-Star game in Ottawa, joining defenseman Kris Letang. Malkin is proving capable of carrying the Penguins (27-17-4) without superstar center Sidney Crosby, who is sidelined indefinitely due to a concussion. Malkin has nine goals and four assists during Pittsburgh's six-game winning streak, the team's longest since running off 12 in a row Nov. 17-Dec. 11, 2010. Malkin has scored in every game of the current streak, the longest goal-scoring run of his six-year career. "I have great confidence now, you know?" he said. "You win six games, I think everyone has great confidence now. I just am enjoying the game, you know? And having fun." Left wing James Neal is also having a good time, with five goals and five assists during the winning streak while playing on Malkin's line. The duo is tied for the Pittsburgh lead with 26 goals apiece. Neal's career high is 27 with Dallas in 2009-10. "We're feeding off each other," Neal told the Penguins' official website. "Go to a soft spot and he's going to find you. I just try to get him the puck with speed at all times. He drags guys to him. We do a lot of give-and-gos and a lot of little plays to try and keep our speed. He's a lot of fun to play with. He's an unbelievable player." Neal and Malkin have both enjoyed success against St. Louis (29-13-6). Neal has scored in each of his last two meetings with the Blues, including one goal set up by Malkin in a 3-2 overtime loss at home Nov. 23. Malkin assisted on both Pittsburgh goals in that matchup, giving him three goals and three assists in five career games versus St. Louis. The Blues are trying to rebound from a 3-1 loss to Detroit on Monday after going 8-0-1 in their previous nine. St. Louis squandered an early lead against the Red Wings while racking up a season-high 49 penalty minutes, including three misconducts. "We played good in stretches, but we crumbled when things got tight," right wing Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We got those retaliatory penalties. That takes away our momentum and gets us out of our comfort zone." David Backes was held without a point Monday, while he had 14 penalty minutes. He had 12 points in his previous nine games. Backes has three assists in five career meetings with the Penguins, but none at Pittsburgh in November. Alex Pietrangelo won that contest for the Blues by scoring with 52.2 seconds left in overtime. The defenseman will now try to get back on the scoresheet after his career-high nine-game point streak ended Monday. He had three goals and 10 assists in that stretch.
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