Penguins Notebook: Thrashers riding hot streak
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The Penguins have compiled a seven-game winning streak, outscoring opponents, 21-10, and have allowed just three goals over the past four games.
Atlanta has matched a franchise record with six wins in a row, outscoring those clubs, 22-5.
One of those streaks will end tonight when the teams meet at Consol Energy Center.
"It will be interesting to butt heads and go toe-to-toe and see who comes out on top," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday.
The biggest difference between the two streaks is that this is expected from the Penguins, playoff regulars and Stanley Cup contenders; the Thrashers are trying to fashion a winning identity after appearing in the postseason just once, a first-round loss to the New York Rangers in 2007.
"The way they built the team for the first time they made the playoffs, and the reason they had to rebuild, is that they brought all these older guys, veteran guys, and it didn't work," said Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis, who was with Atlanta in 2006-07.
Two things have helped the Thrashers immensely this season.
One is the play of three young skaters who won the 2010 Stanley Cup with Chicago. Dustin Byfuglien, 25, leads Atlanta with 10 goals, 27 points, the latter number the best among NHL defensemen through Wednesday. Winger Andrew Ladd, 24, is second in scoring with 25 points. Winger Ben Eager, 26, is Atlanta's penalty minutes leader with 44.
"I'm sure those guys bring a lot of experience and character," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said of help that came during Chicago's purge because of salary cap issues.
The other major factor for Atlanta is the play of 23-year-old goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who missed time earlier this season after passing out in a game and receiving a concussion.
He is among the NHL leaders with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. He has been the winner in every game during the team's streak, setting an Atlanta record for consecutive wins, and has stopped 183 of 188 shots in the six games.
Bylsma also noted that the Thrashers have a defensive group that is effective in joining the rush offensively. Byfuglien's partner, Tobias Enstrom, is third on the team with 21 points.
Crosby was named the NHL's No. 1 star for November after collecting 26 points in 14 games, including an active 13-game scoring streak. He led all scorers for the month and moved into first place in the league points race with 41 points. Crosby, 23, who had 12 goals in the month, helped the Penguins go 10-3-1.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price is the second star, Byfuglien the third.
That announcement came shortly after the team practiced and Crosby talked about being named the Newsmaker of the Year by Maclean's magazine, the Canadian equivalent of Time, for his gold medal-winning overtime goal against the United States at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
"It was a great experience, and I'm really happy we won, but it was a pretty special moment," he said of the Winter Games. "It's special to win [the Macleans honor]. It's nice to be recognized for that."
Penguins backup goaltender Brent Johnson missed practice. Bylsma said Johnson was ill. ... Winger Arron Asham, who missed Monday's game against the New York Rangers because of illness, practiced. ... Forward Mike Comrie, who has an unspecified injury, remained out of practice.
First Published December 2, 2010 12:00 am