Wednesday Night Hockey: Avs look to keep rolling vs. Penguins

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche at 9:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins have been one of the bigger disappointments in the NHL through the first quarter of the season, but things seem to be trending up. After last night’s 4-3 comeback win over the Winnipeg Jets, the Pens have now picked up points in five consecutive games. They’re still not in a playoff spot as of right now, but they’re within striking distance of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Of course, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have led the way offensively, but secondary scoring has been one of the issues the Pens have run into in 2018-19. That seems to have changed lately. Tanner Pearson has chipped in offensively over the last week. Riley Sheahan, Derek Grant and Zach Aston-Reese all found the back of the net last night, too.

“It’s huge when you get contributions like that from throughout your lineup, especially in the bottom-six,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It just makes us that much more difficult to play against. On a night like tonight, it’s the difference in the hockey game.”

The other question mark with the Penguins is their goaltending situation. Matt Murray, who is currently sidelined with lower-body injury, hasn’t been very good. With Murray on the shelf, it’ll be up to Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry to shoulder the load. DeSmith has won each of his last three starts. He’s given up six goals during that stretch.

Like Pittsburgh, Colorado is also top-heavy. Their first line includes Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and NHL scoring leader Mikko Rantanen, who has multi-point efforts in five straight games and in seven of his last eight. Yeah, he’s been that good.

MacKinnon, who scored twice during Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Nashville, has 17 goals and 37 points in 24 games this season.

“[Rantanen] makes really good plays,” MacKinnon said, per NHL.com. “He’s such a good passer. He finds me in a lot of quiet areas. On my second one, he knew I was going to cut to the middle. I was just waiting for him to see me. He’s going to find me if I’m open, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Things are looking good for Colorado. They’ve now won five games in a row over Anaheim, Los Angeles, Arizona, Dallas and Nashville. They also haven’t dropped a game in regulation since they lost in Winnipeg on Nov. 9.

Can we call this one the battle of Tim Hortons?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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