The Pittsburgh Penguins (35-21-5) host the Ottawa Senators (35-20-6) in an early CBC Hockey Night in Canada showdown on Saturday afternoon.
The surprising Pens, left for dead by many "experts" when superstar and captain Sidney Crosby went down on January 18th thanks to an ankle injury, have gone 9-4-2 since.
Evgeni Malkin has stepped up big time during Crosby's absence, picking up an incredible 24 points in his current 10-game point streak (8 goals, 16 assists).
In the 15 games that Crosby has missed, Malkin has 12 goals and 30 points.
Malkin, with 35 goals this season, is now the NHL's leading point-getter with 82 points.
Malkin's performance certainly has reminded everyone of legend Mario Lemieux, who was prone to scoring at a two-points-per-game clip.
The Russian center and No. 2 overall draft pick in 2004 was at it again in Montreal on Thursday (Feb. 21), as he had a goal and an assist in a 36-second span midway through the third period in a 5-4 victory over the Canadiens.
Goaltender Ty Conklin has continued to shine, and has a 16-4-3 record with a 2.18 goals-against average and .932 save percentage this season since taking over for injured Marc-Andre Fleury.
Getting back to Saturday's contest, this home game against the Senators is huge. With a victory, the Penguins can move past the Sens in the overall Eastern Confernce standings.
Who would have thunk it?
When the Penguins started out poorly and lost Fleury, who himself was struggling prior to his injury, they looked finished.
And then Crosby went down.
The Crosby-less Penguins battling for top spot in the East?
Ottawa leads the East with 76 points, but is trailed by three surging teams. The New Jersey Devils (No. 2), Canadiens (No. 5), and Penguins (No. 4) are all tied with 75 points going into Saturday's action.
The Devils, 7-1-2 in their last ten, were already in action against the Islanders before the puck drops in Pittsburgh.
The Canadiens, who made a historic 5-0 comeback against the Rangers earlier in the week, host Columbus later this evening.
Will the Senators fall from top spot? We will find out at the end of the day.
Regardless of Saturday's outcome in the Pittsburgh-Ottawa game, it has been a great ride for the Penguins.
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