(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins hope to use the Arizona Coyotes to earn just their second win in eight games when they host the Western Conference's last-place team on Saturday afternoon.
The Penguins are 1-5-1 over their last seven games, with the lone victory coming last Saturday in Arizona. Pittsburgh won that tilt by a 3-1 count, but the Coyotes enter today's battle at CONSOL Energy Center having won two straight games.
Despite the recent rough patch, Pittsburgh is holding onto the third and final playoff berth from the Metropolitan Division, but is only a point ahead of Washington for that distinction with eight games left for both clubs. The Capitals host Nashville on Saturday afternoon.
The Pens also sit two points behind the New York Islanders for second place in the Metro. The Isles are playing Anaheim at home today.
Pittsburgh has lost two straight since last week's win over the Coyotes, but the club could receive a boost Saturday if either Evgeni Malkin or Patric Hornqvist, or both, are able to return to the lineup.
Malkin, who leads Pittsburgh with 28 goals and is second in points with 68, has sat out the last five games with an undisclosed injury. However, he told the Penguins' website Friday there is a "great chance" he could return to action on Saturday. If the Russian star is unable to go this afternoon then it's likely he will play Sunday when the Pens continue a three-game homestand versus San Jose.
Hornqvist has missed five straight with an unknown ailment and also is questionable for Saturday. He is third on the team in goals (23) and fourth in points (45).
Getting either forward back could help Pittsburgh's struggling offense. The club has scored two or fewer goals in eight of its last 10 games.
Pittsburgh dropped a 5-2 decision Thursday at Carolina. The Pens opened the scoring on Brandon Sutter's goal at 3:54 of the first, but the Hurricanes followed with five unanswered markers to take control of the game.
Ian Cole scored Pittsburgh's other goal in the latter stages of the third, while Marc-Andre Fleury gave up all five goals on 28 shots.
"I really liked our start. I thought we had a great start," said Penguins coach Mike Johnston. "They capitalized on a turnover (on) their first goal."
Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff sat out Thursday's game with an upper-body ailment and is expected to miss another tilt on Saturday.
One day after Arizona lost last Saturday's game to the Pens, the club saw its overall losing streak reach eight in a row with a setback against Vancouver. The Coyotes halted the slide with Tuesday's win in Detroit before beating Buffalo on Thursday, using a pair of overtime victories to start 2-0 on a three-game road trip.
Mark Arcobello delivered the OT winner in a 5-4 win over Detroit, while Sam Gagner scored 56 seconds into the extra session to complete a 4-3 victory against the Sabres.
Thursday's tilt pitted the NHL's two worst teams against each other. With 48 points, the Sabres are six behind the Coyotes in the overall NHL standings, giving Buffalo the inside track on the No. 1 selection at this summer's draft.
Jordan Szwarz, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Moss also scored for the Coyotes and Mike Smith made 32 saves for the win, which gave Arizona two straight victories for the first time since Feb. 1-3.
"We came in with the mindset of trying to get our first two-game winning streak in a long time," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. "I thought we played hard."
Arizona is 13-21-3 as the visiting team this season. It's next game is at home on Monday, when the Sabres head to the desert.
The Coyotes have lost four of the last six meetings against the Penguins, but the clubs have split the past four encounters in the Steel City.