Sidney Crosby is red hot, and his production has been vital to the Pittsburgh Penguins getting closer to securing a playoff spot.
Crosby looks to help the Penguins move within a point of second place in the Metropolitan Division by continuing his domination of the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
Third in the NHL with 78 points after amassing 22 during Pittsburgh's 11-4-0 stretch, Crosby is making a run at his third Hart Trophy. He's more worried about getting the Penguins (42-25-8) in the postseason for a 10th straight year, a fate that will be determined over the final seven games.
"We've been fighting for a long time now to get into the playoffs, so I think we still have that mentality," Crosby told the team's official website. "We're trying to make sure we worry about each game and playing the right way. We trust we'll get the results and we'll see where that puts us."
Winning eight of nine games has put the Penguins third in the division, three points back of the second-place New York Rangers in the battle for home-ice advantage in a first-round series.
Pittsburgh, which has been eliminated from the playoffs by the Rangers in each of the last two seasons, won 3-2 in overtime at Madison Square Garden on Crosby's goal with 30 seconds left Sunday.
"It's big for the standings," said Marc-Andre Fleury, who had 25 saves. "It's so close with a division game. You definitely need those points. They've had our number in the playoffs the past few seasons."
Pittsburgh has had Buffalo's number to the tune of eight straight victories, the Penguins' longest active streak against any opponent.
Crosby has 48 points in 30 career meetings with the Sabres, including 29 during his last 14 which have all ended in Pittsburgh wins. He has three points in two matchups this season - both 4-3 victories with the latest in Buffalo on Feb. 21.
Patric Hornqvist had a goal in that meeting, giving him five while setting up five others during a six-game point streak against the Sabres. The right wing, though, hasn't scored in seven games and doesn't have a point in three straight.
Buffalo (31-35-10) is trying to bounce back from Monday's 3-2 loss at Detroit as its attempted rally fell short after scoring twice in a 61-second span late in the third period.
"You wait that long against a team like that, that's desperation," center Sam Reinhart said. "Unfortunately, it took too long."
Reinhart has 11 points in 11 games, including four in the last three. The rookie scored a goal for a second straight game Monday, but he has no points against the Penguins.
Jack Eichel has also been held off the score sheet by Pittsburgh. The star rookie's 23 goals lead the Sabres, but he's only netted one in the past 12 road games.
The Sabres won't have Evander Kane available after he missed Monday's third period because of an upper-body injury. The left wing has 20 goals and 15 assists.
"He played a handful of shifts with the injury and just wasn't able to continue," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's day to day right now."
Bylsma was behind the Penguins bench from 2009-2014, winning a franchise-record 252 games and one Stanley Cup in '09.