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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, March 17th (All times eastern)

Atlanta Thrashers (29-35-6) at Pittsburgh Penguins (37-26-8), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The surging Pittsburgh Penguins aim for a series sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers, who are on the longest winning streak in franchise history, when the two clubs meet tonight at Mellon Arena.

Pittsburgh has won four straight and six of its last eight meetings with Atlanta, including victories in all three matchups this year by a 12-6 margin. The Penguins have also come out on top in four straight and six of the last nine games played in the Steel City versus the Thrashers.

The Penguins, though, could be without the NHL's leading scorer, Evgeni Malkin, tonight. The 22-year-old Russian, who leads the league with 97 points but has been held off the scoresheet in each of his last two games, missed practice on Monday due to illness. However, interim head coach Dan Bylsma told the club's official site that he expects Malkin to play.

Chris Kunitz could pick up the scoring slack in Malkin's absence, as he has posted five goals and six assists in nine games since coming over in a trade with Anaheim. Kunitz scored twice and added an assist in Sunday's 6-4 win over Boston.

Bill Guerin posted a goal and two helpers for the Penguins, who snapped a two- game slide and won for the eighth time in their last 10 contests. Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal also lit the lamp and Sidney Crosby ended with three assists.

Crosby has six goals and 12 assists in his last 10 games, a stretch that includes a brief absence due to a groin injury. He has seven goals and 19 points in 13 career games against Atlanta.

Making his first start since January 31, Penguins goaltender Mathieu Garon allowed a goal on the first shot he faced but recovered for the win with 21 saves. It was Garon's first victory since January 16.

The victory put Pittsburgh fifth overall in the Eastern Conference with 82 points, two back of Philadelphia. The Penguins play the third test of a season-long eight-game homestand tonight and are 19-12-3 at Mellon Arena this year, having won five of their last six as the host.

Atlanta, though, heads into this contest riding a franchise-best six-game winning streak. The Thrashers set their new club mark last night with a 5-1 victory over Southeast Division-leading Washington.

Kari Lehtonen made a career-high 49 saves in the victory and he has been in net for five of Atlanta's six wins, posting a 1.18 goals against average with a pair of shutouts over that time.

Slava Kozlov and Tobias Enstrom each had a goal and an assist, with Kozlov extending his point streak to five games (2 goals, 5 assists). Former Penguin Colby Armstrong also scored for the Thrashers, whose win streak includes three in a row on the road. Atlanta is 15-17-4 on the road this season.

The club won despite missing star winger Ilya Kovalchuk for a second straight game because of an upper-body injury. Kovalchuk leads the Thrashers with 36 goals and is questionable again for tonight.

03/17 11:16:53 ET

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