The Sidney Crosby watch has been on high alert even though the Pittsburgh Penguins have held up superbly in the absence of their superstar captain. After completing a sweep of a three-game road trip on Sunday, the big question in the Steel City is whether Crosby will be in the lineup when the Penguins host the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
Crosby has been sidelined for 28 games while recuperating from core muscle surgery but rejoined the team for practice on the road trip, which concluded with Pittsburgh's 4-3 shootout victory in Arizona. "Guys are competing, we're finding different ways to win," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after his team won for the 14th time in 18 games (14-3-1) to climb into second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Wild dug themselves out of an early-season hole with an 11-game point streak but they are heading in the wrong direction again, losing three straight and five of six (1-4-1). "We looked at January as a homestand, and we haven't really done much (with) it. It's frustrating," forward Marcus Foligno said. "We can still salvage it and get it back before the All-Star break, to make something out of it."
ABOUT THE WILD (20-19-6): Minnesota dropped into a tie with Chicago for last place in the Central Division after managing only one goal in each of its past two losses while failing to convert on all seven power-play opportunities, including 0-for-5 in Sunday's 4-1 setback to Vancouver. "We didn't get beat. We beat ourselves in a lot of categories," Foligno said. "It seems like a lot of losses like that have happened this year where we beat ourselves." Foligno has been on a tear with four goals over his last four games.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (28-12-5): Defenseman Kris Letang was named the captain for the Metropolitan Division for the All-Star Game, replacing Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who has decided to bypass the contest. Evgeni Malkin, who has taken over Crosby's spot on the No. 1 line since his injury, collected a pair of assists at Arizona to give him five points during a three-game streak and 30 over his last 19 contests. Malkin also has had his way against the Wild with seven goals and 16 points in 14 meetings.
1. Penguins G Tristan Jarry is 9-3-1 with a 1.75 goals-against average at home.
2. Wild F Zach Parise, mired in a 10-game goal drought, has 17 tallies and 40 points in 53 games versus Pittsburgh.
3. Penguins F Patric Hornqvist has scored five goals in the last seven games.