Thrashers vs. Penguins Preview

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Pittsburgh, PA (AP) - Sidney Crosby has certainly carried the Pittsburgh Penguins during his 24-game points streak, leading his team to an NHL-best 37 points.

He's practically beaten the Atlanta Thrashers in that stretch twice by himself.

Crosby followed a three-point performance against Atlanta in November with a hat trick earlier this month at Consol Energy Center, an effort he'll look to replicate Tuesday night as the Penguins seek a ninth straight home win over the Thrashers.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Penguins -177 money line favorites for Tuesday's game against the Thrashers. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 75% of more than 63 bets for this game have been placed on the Penguins -177.

Crosby has taken a commanding lead in the NHL scoring race during a streak that began Nov. 5. He's piled up 24 goals and 22 assists to jump from a tie for fifth - five points behind Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos - to 11 points clear of his fellow former No. 1 draft pick.

He's contributed to more goals since the beginning of his streak than the Atlantic Division rival New York Islanders (44) or New Jersey Devils (34) have scored.

The Penguins (24-11-2) have watched him rack up at least three points six times in that stretch, including twice against the Thrashers (19-13-6). Crosby had a goal and two assists - all in the third period - in a 4-2 win at Atlanta on Nov. 13, then delivered the first natural hat trick of his career in a 3-2 victory when the Thrashers visited Dec. 2.

"The boy's special, there's no question," Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. "Everybody knows that. When players like that get on a roll, it's scary to play against them."

Crosby scored a goal for the fourth consecutive game Sunday at Ottawa, but that third-period tally came far too late. The Senators became the first team all season to score twice on the power play against Pittsburgh in a 3-1 win.

"It's pretty clear we had a terrible start and paid for it in the end," Crosby said. "We stuck with things and came at them in the second and third and had some pretty good chances but we dug ourselves a pretty big hole there."

Perhaps returning home will help the Penguins get back on track. Pittsburgh has won nine of its last 10 games at its new arena behind 13 goals from Crosby and 11 points apiece from Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz.

The Penguins have beaten Atlanta eight consecutive times in Pittsburgh with Crosby and Malkin leading the way. Crosby has scored 1.83 points per game against the Thrashers since 2007-08 - his highest average against any Eastern Conference opponent - while Malkin has nine goals and 11 assists in his last nine games versus Atlanta.

The duo has made life difficult for Ondrej Pavelec, who has posted a 4.42 goals-against average while losing all six career starts against Pittsburgh.

Producing a point Tuesday would tie Crosby with Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky for the NHL's third-longest points streak since the 1990-91 season.

The power play might be his perfect opportunity. Atlanta's last five opponents are 6 for 22 (27.3 percent) with the man advantage, with Vincent Lecavalier's power-play tally in overtime on Sunday the difference in a 3-2 Tampa Bay win.

"We've got to be smarter," Ramsay said. "But we have to stay disciplined throughout the game, no matter what's happening around us."

Getting some production from his own power play might help Ramsay's team avoid its first four-game winless stretch this season. Second in the NHL through Dec. 9 at 24.8 percent with the man advantage, the Thrashers have converted 6.9 percent (2 for 29) of their chances in the last 10 games.
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