NHL

Penguins-Jets Preview

Consecutive wins are reason enough for the Pittsburgh Penguins to feel optimistic. A matchup with the Winnipeg Jets is another.

The Penguins look to continue their dominance of the Jets as they go for their longest winning streak in seven weeks Sunday night.

Pittsburgh (17-14-3) had dropped seven of eight before entering the holiday break with a 5-2 win over Columbus on Monday. The Penguins picked up where they left off Saturday, outshooting Minnesota 27-12 through two periods en route to a 3-1 road victory.

The Penguins haven't won three in a row since a season-high six-game streak from Oct. 24-Nov. 6.

"Watching the Columbus game I thought we did a lot of good things there, too, and I think this was building off of that, a very similar effort and we got rewarded for it," said Sidney Crosby, who missed Monday's win with a lower-body injury.

Consistency from Crosby could go a long way to getting closer to that mark. The superstar has struggled by his lofty standards, with seven goals and 17 assists this season. He ended a seven-game goal drought Saturday before adding an assist on Patric Hornqvist's tally in his return from a one-game absence.

Crosby has five points over his past three games.

"When Sid's in the lineup and we have Sid and (Evgeni Malkin) back-to-back, I think they're dangerous," coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we had some balance throughout our lineup (Saturday) and everyone contributed. The penalty kill was great. I thought the role players did a great job.

"That's the type of identity we want to create here. It's about the group. And I think the last couple of games we're starting to understand the importance of it and that we need one another to get to where we want to go."

The Penguins have won six straight meetings with Winnipeg (15-17-2) and 21 of the past 24, dating back to when the Jets were the Atlanta Thrashers.

Crosby has 47 points in 28 career matchups, 22 over the last 10.

The Jets were relieved to head into the holiday break after losing for the fourth time in five games, 4-1 at Calgary on Tuesday.

"We needed it," right wing Drew Stafford told the team's official website, "to regroup and recharge the batteries a little bit. For us to get that break, I think we can turn that into a positive.

"Losing isn't fun for anybody. We're all in a bad mood. When you string a few losses together it's hard to find the energy, the enthusiasm. It takes a toll on you. It was good timing for us to get this break. ... The guys are excited to turn this around."

They may also be excited to return to MTS Centre, where they've won six of eight compared to a 1-10-1 stretch on the road.

Winnipeg, though, may have been dealt a blow after Mark Scheifele collided with Andrew Ladd during practice Saturday, according to the official team website. The center was helped off the ice and needed stitches to close a cut on his head, leaving his status clouded.

"We'll give it some time and see how he's feeling (Sunday)," coach Paul Maurice said.

Scheifele is second on the Jets with 12 goals and fourth with 22 points. However, he's accumulated 17 of those in 15 home games.

Blake Wheeler leads the team with 35 points, collecting seven - all assists - over the past four games. He has six points in his last five home matchups with Pittsburgh after setting up two goals and scoring in the shootout of a 4-3 home loss Nov. 6, 2014.

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