By: Casey Shea

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking to build upon an impressive win over the Buffalo Sabres when they host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

On Saturday, the Penguins crushed the Sabres 8-3 despite not having Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby in the lineup.

Evegni Malkin was a dominant force in the game and notched three goals and added two assists to lead the team.

Tonight’s opponent comes into the game as one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League.

The Blackhawks (21-8-4-46 points) have won five straight and are 7-0-1 in the month of December. Their last loss in regulation came against the Phoenix Coyotes on Nov. 29 by a 4-1 margin.

Their recent run has propelled them into the top spot in the Central Division where they hold a three-point lead over the Detroit Red Wings.

Not only do they lead the division, their 46 points puts them one point ahead of Boston for the top spot in the NHL.

Former Penguin Marian Hossa is leading the way for Chicago with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists).

Three other players have already broken the 30-point plateau this season:

  • Patrick Sharp – 17 goals, 18 assists – 35 points
  • Jonathan Toews – 18 goals, 17 assists – 35 points
  • Patrick Kane – 9 goals, 23 assists – 32 points

In goal, Corey Crawford has struggled this season with only a 12-7-2 record to go along with a 3.00 GAA and a .896 save percentage.

However, Ray Emery has been in the cage more often than not this month and has been a major factor in the team’s recent success.

Emery has gone 9-1-2 this season with a 2.50 GAA and a .909 save percentage and is 6-0-1 in December.

According to the Penguins’ website, James Neal is riding a five-game point streak where he has amassed four goals and seven assists.

In 11 games against the Blackhawks in his career, Neal has four goals and nine assists.

The power play has been hit-or-miss at times this season, but it has been on fire over the last two games with five goals.

Malkin’s five-point night against the Sabres has rocketed him up the leaderboard in the NHL. His 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) are only three behind Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux for the league lead.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Malkin has 36 points in just 26 games this season.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury (16-7-2, 2.31 GAA, .914 save percentage) earned his 200th career win Saturday night and has done well against the Blackhawks in the past.

In his career, Fleury is 3-1-2 with a 2.57 GAA and a .916 save percentage. He has also shut them out once.

On the injury front, Craig Adams, Zbynek Michalek and Staal are all listed as day-to-day. Their status for tonight’s game is not known at this time.

The puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on Versus.

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