December 03, 2014

The Pittsburgh Penguins are finally enjoying better results under Mike Sullivan, and one team that has noticed is the Vancouver Canucks.

Sullivan's most recent NHL job before taking over the Penguins was with the Canucks, who he will face Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh (22-17-7) fired Mike Johnston on Dec. 12, with Sullivan elevated to the head job after coaching the Penguins' AHL affiliate at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

After losing their first four games under Sullivan, the Penguins are 7-3-4 in the last 14. Star center Evgeni Malkin has 16 points in that stretch, and he likes what the new coach has brought.

"He came to the team and brought more energy and emotion," Malkin told the Penguins' official website. "Sullivan is an emotional guy in the locker room too. It's good for us."

Sullivan previously coached Boston and most recently was an assistant with Vancouver (20-17-11) under John Tortorella until both were fired in the 2013-14 season.

"They're a good team, they've got a lot of firepower," Canucks winger Alex Burrows said. "We're gonna see Mike Sullivan again and I think he's gonna prepare them."

Sidney Crosby has matched his longest point streak of the season with eight in five games, recording one goal and one assist in Thursday's 4-3 victory over Philadelphia.

The Penguins got power-play goals from Phil Kessel and Trevor Daley to improve to 29.7 percent (11 for 37) in their last 11 games.

"Now we are starting to believe that we can win every game," Malkin said. "We have a great team. We started playing better. I believe that we will make the playoffs."

Defenseman Kris Letang, third on the team with 30 points, will be a game-time decision with a lower-body injured suffered Thursday.

Vancouver is 3-1-1 on a six-game trip after beginning it with a regulation loss to Washington. Daniel Sedin became the Canucks' all-time leader in goals with two to give him 348 in Thursday's 4-2 win over Boston.

Sedin failed to score in the first four games of the trip.

''It's more about the two points, I think,'' Sedin said. ''(You) look at the standings every day and you try to stay away from it, but every point is huge.''

Mother Nature could possibly play a role in which goalie the Canucks will face.

Marc-Andre Fleury has posted a 2.48 goals-against average in winning five straight starts over the Canucks, including a 3-2 road victory Nov. 4.

Backup Jeff Zatkoff may start instead in order for Fleury to start Sunday at Washington in a game that could be postponed due to a massive snowstorm. The NHL will determine the status of that contest Saturday morning.

The Canucks will start Ryan Miller, who has seen plenty of action in three starts since missing nearly a month with a lower-body injury. He has faced 136 shots and allowed seven goals for a 2.25 GAA.

Although Saturday's early start time is inconvenient for a team from Western Canada, the Canucks didn't want to use that as an excuse at Friday's practice.

"We've got one game left. So why not go all out and have a good game?" coach Willie Desjardins said. "I'm hoping I see the energy I saw today in practice."

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