(SportsNetwork.com) - Evgeni Malkin and the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins take aim at a fifth straight victory on Wednesday night as they visit the Colorado Avalanche.
Malkin has helped the Pens rebound from three straight losses with their longest winning streak since taking seven in a row from Oct. 25-Nov. 8. That has allowed Pittsburgh to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division, where it trails the second-place New York Rangers by three points. The Pens also own just a one-point edge over the fourth-place Washington Capitals.
The Penguins extended their winning streak with Sunday's 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, with Malkin notching a pair of goals and an assist to extend his point streak to five games in a row.
Malkin also posted his third straight three-point game and sixth of the season. His 64 points are tied with Sidney Crosby for the team lead and are just three off the NHL lead.
Steve Downie, David Perron and Derrick Pouliot also lit the lamp for the Penguins, with Kris Letang and Crosby each contributing a pair of assists. Marc-Andre Fleury came up with 22 saves.
"They have a couple of good players injured, and we played at home. We know we're a good team too and we had a couple days of rest and we showed great hockey tonight," Malkin noted.
The Penguins figure to open up a four-game road trip with Fleury in net and he is 7-2-0 lifetime versus the Avalanche with a 2.01 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
Recently-acquired blueliners Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy also are likely to be in the lineup. Both were acquired in separate trades on Monday, with Cole coming over from the St. Louis Blues for Robert Bortuzzo and a 2016 seventh-round pick and Lovejoy being re-acquired from Anaheim.
The Ducks received defenseman Simon Despres in return for Lovejoy, who made his NHL debut with the Penguins during the 2008-09 season and was later dealt to the Ducks in February of 2013.
"Both guys we got are capable hitters," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said on Pittsburgh's website. "Clearly, the two guys we traded were more aggressive on the fighting side than the two guys we got back. But as we go along, I don't believe down the stretch in the regular season there will be that many games, maybe a few, that we'll need that. We'll have to do it as a team unit, team toughness. But when you get to the playoffs it's not as useful."
The Avalanche, 10 points back of the Minnesota Wild for a wild card spot, made a small move on Monday in sending veteran forward Max Talbot to the Boston Bruins along with forward Paul Carey for forward Jordan Caron and a 2016 sixth-round pick.
Talbot was the lone goal-scorer for the Avs in their most recent outing, a big 3-1 loss to the Wild. Semyon Varlamov allowed all three goals on 32 shots for a Colorado club that had won three of four but went 0-for-7 on the power play against Minnesota.
"One goal isn't enough, but the guys played hard," said Colorado forward Jarome Iginla. "It was a big game for both teams tonight and both sides played hard, but we need to win if we want to get in the playoffs."
Varlamov should start tonight for the Avs and is 2-2-1 versus the Penguins in his career with a 2.94 GAA and .906 save percentage.
Colorado's Alex Tanguay is slated to appear in his 1,000th NHL game tonight. The 12th overall pick of the 1998 draft has logged 269 goals and 544 assists for 813 points over his career.
The Penguins have won six of their last seven versus the Avalanche, including a 1-0 overtime victory at home on Dec. 18. Fleury was on point with a 29-save shutout and Blake Comeau had the winner at the 2:24 mark of overtime.
Pittsburgh has won three in a row at Colorado.