NHL

Crosby goes for 1,000th point as Penguins visit Avalanche

DENVER -- Sidney Crosby has two Stanley Cup titles and a pair of Hart Trophys, and could add something more to his sure-fire Hall of Fame career Thursday.

Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain and leader, needs two points for 1,000 for his career as he tries to reach the milestone against the Colorado Avalanche.

Crosby scored in Pittsburgh's 3-2 shootout loss to Calgary on Tuesday for his 998th career point. Going against the worst team in the NHL, it seems like a good bet he'll reach the mark Thursday.

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He would have liked to reach the milestone at home against the Flames, a team he has played well against in his career, but couldn't accomplish it in front of the Penguins fans.

So, it might have to come at Pepsi Center with good friend and Avalanche leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon on hand.

"He's been the best player in the world for 12 years now, he's been doing it forever," MacKinnon told HockeyBuzz.com. "He's had an unbelievable career, definitely one of the best players ever to play. He's like a grinder almost. He goes in the corners, he battles hard. That's what makes him so good; he can play any time of game. He can do it all."

When he does reach 1,000 points, he becomes the sixth Penguins player and the 86th NHL player to do it. One of those six Pittsburgh players, Jaromir Jagr, is one of seven active players with at least 1,000 points.

Two scored their 1,000th point this season -- Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, who got the mark less than three weeks ago.

It's a foregone conclusion Crosby will join the list, but more important is getting two points for his team. The shootout loss to the Flames dropped them one point behind Columbus for second in the Metropolitan Division and eight points behind first-place Washington.

The Penguins are 3-1-1 since losing Evgeni Malkin to a lower-body injury Jan. 24 but the good news is he is close to returning. He was limited in practice Wednesday and will be on the two-game trip.

"We're trying to slowly introduce him into the battles to make sure that we give him the best chance to recover the right way," coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He's making progress. That's encouraging. We'll take it day-to-day."

Getting Malkin back would be a boost. Despite missing five games, he is fifth in the league in scoring with 54 points -- six behind Crosby and Edmonton's Connor McDavid, who lead the NHL.

Pittsburgh (33-13-6) faces a Colorado team that is enjoying its first two-game winning streak in three months. The Avalanche beat Montreal 4-0 on Tuesday with rookie Mikko Rantanen notching his first hat trick in the win.

It was a much-needed boost for a team that has imploded this season. Colorado (15-33-2) has 103 goals in 50 games, fewest in the NHL, but came during their two-game winning streak.

"I know we're playing how we should have played the last 30 games. We have been working hard and now the puck is coming to us," Rantanen said. "We scored five goals in the last game and now we got four goals, so it's pretty good. We have to keep going like this to the end of the season."

The Avalanche got more good news when X-rays showed Matt Nieto suffered no fracture when he was hit in the right leg by a Shea Weber shot late in Tuesday's game. The puck hit his calf, and although he is sore he may play against Pittsburgh.

"He'll be in, in (Thursday) morning and probably go for a skate on his own," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "To be able to come out of that one, even if he has to miss a game, that's better than what some of the other alternatives could be."