ColoradoAvalanche.com web staff contributed to this story.
PENGUINS (49-24-5) at AVALANCHE (50-21-6)
TV: Altitude, ROOT, RDS2
Last 10: Pittsburgh 4-5-1; Colorado 7-2-1
Season series: This is the second and final game between Colorado and Pittsburgh. The Avalanche won the first meeting 1-0 on Oct. 21 at Consol Energy Center. Captain Gabriel Landeskog scored on his only shot of the game, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere had 34 saves as the Avs improved to 8-1-0.
Big story: The Avalanche has won six straight games, including an impressive 4-0 win Saturday in St. Louis, and was three points ahead of the Blackhawks for second in the Central Division entering Sunday. Both teams are battling for home-ice advantage in a likely first round Stanley Cup Playoffs meeting, and Chicago hosts the Blues on Sunday afternoon.
The Penguins, who have won the Metropolitan Division, are locked into the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Bruins clinched the conference title Saturday with a 5-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Penguins: Pittsburgh has lost two of three and added another defenseman to its injury list Saturday when rookie Olli Maatta was a late scratch before a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Maatta, who's second among Pittsburgh defenseman with 29 points, has an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day, coach Dan Bylsma said after the game.
The Penguins are already missing top defenseman Kris Letang, who has not played since Jan. 27 after suffering a stroke, but they did get good news on the injury front Thursday when defenseman Paul Martin, who had been out since Feb. 7 with a broken right hand, returned to the lineup and scored the game-winner in a 4-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets.
"We didn't play well," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said Saturday. "That being said, there were some bounces early on, and we seemed to get some chances to get within a couple and didn't score. We didn't get a lot of momentum after that. We had some chances to score in the second and didn't, and the third period was pretty passive by both teams."
Avalanche: Colorado's victory against the Blues gave it 50 a season after finishing last season with the worst record in the NHL. The Avalanche is two wins shy of tying the single-season franchise record (2000-01) and trails St. Louis by just five points for the division lead.
"Varly's been our best player--he's been phenomenal from the get-go," Roy said Saturday. "It's biased a bit by me, but he deserves to be part of the Hart Trophy [conversation]."
The Avalanche's win Saturday made it the only team in the NHL this season to defeat every team at least once.
Who's hot: Penguins right wing Lee Stempniak has a goal and two assists in his past four games, and left wing Chris Kunitz has three goals and two assists in his past six. … Avalanche center Paul Stastny has two goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak after he had a goal and two helpers against the Blues. Forward Nathan MacKinnon has a goal and four assists in his past four games.
Injury report: In addition to Maatta, Pittsburgh left wing Jussi Jokinen (upper body) is day-to-day, and center Evgeni Malkin (broken foot) could return to the lineup sometime this week but is likely out until the playoffs. Center Joe Vitale (middle body) returned to Pittsburgh to be re-evaluated. Forwards Chris Conner (broken foot) and Pascal Dupuis (knee) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (pelvis) are on injured reserve. … Colorado forward Cody McLeod (ankle) is day-to-day and sat out Saturday after leaving Colorado's game Thursday against the New York Rangers in the second period. Forwards PA Parenteau (knee) and Matt Duchene (knee) are out, and Alex Tanguay (hip) is on IR.
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