Jets aim to stay hot against struggling Penguins

( - Sometimes the All-Star break cuts a team off in the middle of a hot streak and other times it gives a struggling team a chance to regroup.

Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh features teams on both ends of that spectrum as the sliding Penguins welcome the red-hot Winnipeg Jets for a battle at Consol Energy Center.

Along with Anaheim and Detroit, the Jets hold the longest current winning streak in the NHL, having won five straight before the league went on hiatus for All-Star weekend in Columbus.

Winnipeg picked up its fifth straight win and improved to 6-0-1 in its last seven tilts with Wednesday's 4-0 home win over the Blue Jackets. The Jets scored two times in the opening period and twice more in the second to down visiting Columbus and extend their longest winning streak of the season.

Michael Hutchinson posted his second career shutout with a 29-save effort against Columbus.

"We were solid enough and our goaltender was really good," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. "It's good to go into the break feeling positive."

The current five-game run matches the Jets' longest winning streak since the franchise relocated from Atlanta to Winnipeg prior to the 2011-12 season. The Jets also won five straight from April 6-18, 2013.

The Jets can tie an overall club record for longest winning streak tonight. Atlanta won six in a row twice with the last occurrence coming from Nov. 19-30, 2010. However, the franchise hasn't won in Pittsburgh since Dec. 27, 2006 when the Thrashers recorded a 4-2 decision. Atlanta/Winnipeg has lost 13 straight in the Steel City since that triumph.

Winnipeg hopes to stay hot as it begins a stretch of four road games in five outings. The Jets, who are 14-5-5 as the away team, are seven points ahead of Calgary for the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.

While the Jets entered the break on a roll, Pittsburgh lost its last four tests before All-Star weekend. The Pens hope to end that slide tonight when they aim for a sixth straight win in the series against Winnipeg.

The Penguins have lost six of eight overall, but still sit second in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the first-place New York Islanders and two in front of the New York Rangers. The Isles and Rangers are scheduled to play each other on Tuesday night.

Pittsburgh's current slide matches its longest losing streak of the season. The Pens were able to earn a point in each of their two most recent defeats after dropping a pair of regulation decisions to the Isles and Rangers.

The Penguins dropped an overtime decision last Tuesday in Philadelphia and lost in a shootout the following night against Chicago. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both scored during the shootout to lift the visiting Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory.

Zach Sill scored his first NHL goal in the losing effort, while Steve Downie also lit the lamp. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 shots for the Penguins, who have lost four straight.

"We haven't played our best lately," Penguins head coach Mike Johnston said.

Pittsburgh hasn't lost five straight since an 0-6-0 drought from Dec. 29, 2011-Jan. 11, 2012.

Penguins star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both skipped All- Star weekend to rest lower-body injuries and will therefore be ineligible to play tonight. NHL rules prevent players from playing in the first regular- season test after the break if they pulled out of All-Star weekend due to injury.

Defenseman Kris Letang is questionable for tonight after missing Pittsburgh's final game before the All-Star break with a head injury. Letang was hurt last Tuesday in Philadelphia after absorbing an illegal hit from Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo, who was later suspended eight games for his actions.

Letang did skate at practice on Monday and he could return to game action tonight. Forward Patric Hornqvist also practiced yesterday after missing the past 11 games due to a lower-body injury. Hornqvist, who hasn't played since Dec. 27, is questionable for tonight.

Pittsburgh is 16-7-3 at home this season and the club will be in action tomorrow night when it visits the Washington Capitals.