By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) — Thanks in large part to Sidney Crosby, a slew of injuries isn’t slowing down the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Facing the Ottawa Senators may keep Crosby and the Penguins feeling rather jolly.
Crosby looks to continue his offensive barrage and lead the Penguins to an eighth straight win Monday night by capitalizing on their first meeting with the Senators since ousting them from last season’s playoffs.
Pittsburgh (27-10-1) is atop the Eastern Conference, while Crosby leads the league with 54 points.
The superstar center has helped the Penguins pile up the points lately, as they’ve gone 12-1-1 over their last 14 games while he’s compiled eight goals and 16 assists.
Crosby has 18 points during a 10-game streak, his longest since putting together a career-high 25-game run in 2010.
His tremendous production has been key to Pittsburgh overcoming a litany of injuries. The Penguins are without forwards Evgeni Malkin (leg), Tanner Glass (hand) and Jayson Megna (lower-body) along with five of their top six defensemen.
It’s unclear when any of them will return, but Glass and defenseman Rob Scuderi (ankle) are expected back at some point over the next nine games, which include seven on the road.
Brooks Orpik passed a concussion test Friday, but still hasn’t returned since being pushed to the ice and punched by Bruins forward Shawn Thornton on Dec. 7.
Malkin could miss a fifth straight game, and he’s among the NHL leaders with 41 points.
Crosby, however, continues to pick up the slack, and he did it in a big way Saturday. He scored a goal and assisted on two others to power a 4-3 win over Calgary, extending the Penguins’ winning streak to seven games.
“Winning always makes things better,” Crosby said. “There’s no secret there. It doesn’t matter what team you play on, winning solves everything.
“We do our best to chip in and get through this. It’s not common, you’re not used to being in this situation, but just having the mindset of going out there to outwork the other team has done us well.”
It seems as though Crosby and the Penguins should continue rolling against the Senators (14-17-7), who have given up 41 goals in going 3-6-2 in their last 11 home games.
The Penguins won all three 2012-13 regular-season meetings with the Senators, and eliminated them in five games in the second round of the playoffs. They outscored Ottawa 13-5 in winning the final two contests, and Crosby had six points in the series.
He has 58 points in 44 career meetings, including the playoffs.
Frustration is mounting for the Senators, who have lost four of five games after blowing a two-goal, second period lead in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Phoenix. That came two days after they gave up three unanswered goals in a 4-2 defeat to Florida.
“It’s frustrating and we have to start winning games, eventually,” captain Jason Spezza said. “You just try to keep working and figure out what we have to do better and work at it. It’s not a matter of staying positive at this point it’s just trying to work our way out of it at this point and get on some sort of semblance of a roll.”
Getting Bobby Ryan going could help since he’s scored 11 of his team-leading 16 goals in nine victories. The left wing, though, has been limited to an assist over the past three games.
He has five points in five career meetings with Pittsburgh, while Spezza has four goals and five assists over his last four in the regular season.
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