A huge day from Evgeni Malkin led the Penguins to their second straight win on Sunday and the Russian superstar will try to stay hot when Pittsburgh hosts the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Consol Energy Center.
With a team-high 51 points this year, Malkin has done a great job of picking up the scoring slack for Sidney Crosby, who has missed all but eight games this season with concussion problems.
On Sunday, Malkin tied a season high with five points as he recorded three goals and two assists to lead the Penguins to a 6-3 victory in Tampa. He also had a goal in Friday's 4-1 road win over Florida, as Pittsburgh halted a season-worst six-game losing streak.
Malkin recorded a natural hat trick in the third period on Sunday, giving him 21 goals this season. Malkin's 51 points this year have him just one behind Vancouver's Henrik Sedin for the league lead.
"I don't think about points," Malkin said of personal stats. "We played a great game and got two points. Guys are playing great. We want to keep it going."
Sunday's game capped a three-game road trip for the Penguins, who will try to end a four-game slide on home ice tonight. Pittsburgh is 11-7-2 as the host this year.
In other news for the Pens, the club announced Monday that Crosby will meet this week with Dr. Ted Carrick, a chiropractic neurologist who treated the Penguins star back in August. Although Crosby was recently cleared to skate he is still experiencing concussion symptoms.
"Sidney has made a lot of progress but he is still having some symptoms, so this is the next step in his recovery,"Penguins general manager Ray Shero said of the upcoming doctor's visit. "Obviously he won't be back in the lineup until he is symptom-free."
While the Penguins enter tonight holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, Carolina is 11 points back in 13th place.
The Hurricanes had won two straight before dropping Sunday's close regulation decision against Washington. The Capitals took the 2-1 victory thanks to Dmitry Orlov's first career goal early in the third period.
Jussi Jokinen scored the lone goal for the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward made 22 stops in defeat.
"We're digging ourselves a hole that is going to be tougher and tougher to get out of," said Jokinen. "We need to get it together if we want to make the playoffs."
Carolina did get some good news on Sunday, when young forward Jeff Skinner returned to action for the first time since suffering a concussion on Dec. 7. Skinner -- last year's Calder Trophy winner -- had one shot on net in 17-plus minutes of ice time. Despite missing 16 games with the head injury, the 19- year-old Skinner is still tied for third on Carolina with 24 points.
The Hurricanes have lost seven of their last eight road games and are just 5-13-4 as the road club this year compared to an 11-11-3 mark in Raleigh.
Tonight's test marks the fourth and final scheduled meeting between Pittsburgh and the Hurricanes this year. Carolina began the season series with a home win, but the Pens have taken two straight since to give them five victories in the last seven encounters.
The Hurricanes have also lost three straight and seven of their last 10 games in the Steel City.