Red Wings-Penguins Preview
The Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to overcome a slew of injuries. Another scoring slump from Sidney Crosby isn't helping, either.
With Evgeni Malkin likely out again, Crosby will try to shake out of his funk and lead the Penguins to a seventh win in eight home games Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Pittsburgh (28-19-8) went 6-1-0 with 29 goals before scoring just three during a 1-1-1 stretch after Monday's 2-1 shootout loss at Florida.
Injuries continue to be a problem for the Penguins, who are without Malkin (lower body), Eric Fehr (lower body), Nick Bonino (hand), Beau Bennett (upper body) and David Warsofsky (concussion), while Pascal Dupuis prematurely retired in December with medical issues.
Malkin's absence is by far the most significant since he's second on the team with 23 goals and 49 points.
"The door is open for us to show what we can do," right wing Bryan Rust told the team's official website. "A few of the young guys can step in and make our mark. Hopefully, we'll become regulars here one day."
Rust, 23, has two goals in 15 games and no points in the past eight since being recalled from Wilkes-Barre of the AHL last month.
The scoring onus continues to fall on Crosby, the team leader with 24 goals and 53 points. The superstar center, though, doesn't have a point in three games after collecting 22 over the previous 12.
He had a goal while Malkin, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist had three points apiece in a 5-2 win at Detroit on New Year's Eve.
Crosby's mini-slump isn't making Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill feel any better.
"Crosby's playing at a high level right now," he told the team's official website. "They're playing as a five-man unit for sure. We know they're a really good hockey team. If you turn pucks over against them you're going to be in trouble.
"We turned over way too many pucks over against them on New Year's Eve and put ourselves in a tough spot. ... We can't give them any free offense."
That's especially true at CONSOL Energy Center, where Pittsburgh averages 2.89 goals compared to 2.19 on the road. The Penguins scored 42 goals during an 8-0-2 stretch at home before losing 3-0 to the New York Rangers on Feb. 10.
Crosby failed to register a shot after tallying 14 goals and nine assists over his previous 11 home games.
The Red Wings (29-19-9) will be trying to avoid a season-high four-game road skid after opening this four-game trip with Monday's 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders.
"We had too many unforced errors, too many times where we turned pucks over," Blashill said.
Pavel Datsyuk remained red hot with his 12th goal. He has six goals and four assists during a six-game point streak, but has been limited to two assists in his past six meeting with the Penguins.
Petr Mrazek will be back in net after Jimmy Howard made 28 saves against the Islanders. Mrazek is 11-2-2 with a 1.59 goals-against average and three shutouts in 15 starts since making 32 stops against Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.
The Red Wings are expected to have defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) back during this trip, but he's already been ruled out for Thursday.