NHL

Penguins-Avalanche Preview

Jockeying for position in the cramped Metropolitan Division, the Pittsburgh Penguins believe they've set themselves up well to move forward.

Looking for a fifth consecutive victory, the visiting Penguins could have a pair of recently acquired defensemen available to help continue their success over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

After picking up veteran forward Daniel Winnik from Toronto last Wednesday, Pittsburgh (36-17-9) re-acquired Ben Lovejoy from Anaheim in exchange for Simon Despres and Ian Cole from St. Louis for Robert Bortuzzo and a draft pick.

Third in the division, the Penguins are chasing both New York teams.

''To have a good run in the playoffs you need experience and that's what we've done here,'' general manager Jim Rutherford said.

Among the NHL leaders allowing 2.42 per contest, Rutherford felt the refined skills of Lovejoy and White are a better postseason fit than the bruising play of fellow defensemen Despres and Bortuzzo.

''Clearly the two guys we traded may be a more little aggressive on the fighting side than the two guys we got back,'' he said. ''There will be a few that we play in the regular season that we'll need that. We'll have to do that as a unit ... but when you get to the playoffs, it's not as useful.''

Lovejoy, who spent his first four-plus seasons with Pittsburgh before being dealt to Anaheim in 2012-13, had a goal with 10 assists in 40 games with the Ducks this season. He's also played 29 career playoff games with both clubs.

Cole, meanwhile, recorded seven goals with 13 assists in 100 games for the Blues since the start of last season but is a plus-31.

In his Pittsburgh debut, Winnik recorded an assist during Sunday's 5-3 win over Columbus. David Perron, acquired from Edmonton in January, scored his 10th goal in 24 games with the Penguins.

''The Penguins have as good a chance as any team in the Eastern Conference,'' Rutherford said.

"We feel we've strengthened our defense after going through the process of the forwards, getting more balance up front. So this is our team."

A team obviously paced by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who have combined for five goals and 11 assists while Pittsburgh's scored 18 times over the last four games.

Teammate Marc-Andre Fleury has won three straight but yielded three goals in each of the last two after posting a 1.00 goals-against average in his previous seven starts. Fleury, who stopped 29 shots during a 1-0 overtime win over the Avalanche on Dec. 18, has a 1.59 GAA during a 7-1-0 starting stretch against them.

Malkin assisted on Blake Comeau's goal in December to give Pittsburgh a sixth win in seven games versus Colorado (27-25-11).

Looking to avoid a fourth straight home defeat to Pittsburgh, Colorado made its biggest move prior to the trade deadline by sending ex-Penguin Max Talbot to Boston. It came two days after Talbot scored in Saturday's 3-1 loss to Minnesota.

Needing a serious surge to move into playoff position, Colorado has lost two of three since winning four of five.

''There's no quit in this room,'' said forward Jarome Iginla, who was part of Pittsburgh's playoff push two years ago. ''We just have to keep going and try to put a streak together.''

It's uncertain if teammate Nathan MacKinnon will play after breaking his nose against the Wild. After recording 63 points during his Calder Trophy-winning season, MacKinnon has 37 while currently playing on Colorado's fourth line.

He doesn't have a point in three games versus Pittsburgh.

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