The Pittsburgh Penguins are hoping a trio of young players can help them end years of futility.
The Penguins try for their first three-game winning streak in more than two years Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils.
The Penguins (4-3-0) beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 on Saturday, earning back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Pittsburgh, which beat the New York Islanders 4-3 in overtime on Thursday, has not won three straight since March 19-23, 2004.
The Penguins, who have not finished better than fifth in their division since 2000-01, did not record their fourth victory until their 15th game last season.
Evgeni Malkin scored in the third period Saturday, becoming the first player to score in his first three NHL games since Jan Caloun did it for the San Jose Sharks in 1995-96. The Penguins also got two short-handed goals - including one on a penalty shot - from 18-year-old Jordan Staal, their first-round draft pick in June.
Malkin, the No. 2 pick in the 2004 NHL draft, missed Pittsburgh's first four games after dislocating a shoulder in his first preseason game. With Ryan Malone expected to be out four to six weeks after breaking his forearm Saturday, coach Michel Therrien paired Malkin with Sidney Crosby on a line in practice on Monday.
"It was tough losing Malone, but I have a confidence that (this combination) will work for Sidney," Therrien told pittsburghpenguins.com, adding that the two won't skate together all the time. "We really like they way they play when they are together."
Crosby, who became the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points as an 18-year-old rookie last season, has two goals and eight assists so far, and has assisted on two of Malkin's goals.
Staal, who has three goals - all short-handed - in seven games, practiced with the second line Monday. According to NHL rules, the Penguins can use him for three more games before deciding whether to keep him or return him to his Canadian junior team.
"We are still evaluating some of our younger guys. I think Jordan is playing with a lot of confidence and scoring some big goals for us," Therrien told the team's web site.
Marc-Andre Fleury has started in each of the Penguins' first seven games, posting a 2.76 goals-against average, and will be in goal again Tuesday.
Fleury could have a good chance to improve his average against the Devils, who have scored just 11 goals in their last five games.
New Jersey (4-3-1) lost its second straight on Saturday, falling 8-1 at Ottawa. Brian Gionta netted the lone goal for the Devils, who were coming off a 4-3 shootout loss Thursday to Nashville.
Goalie Martin Brodeur, who owns a 3.32 GAA in seven games, was pulled after allowing six goals on 26 shots. The defensive-minded Devils are allowing 3.38 goals per game this season and Saturday's loss marked the second time this season they allowed an opponent to score five goals in a period.
"They made us pay for every mistake we made," coach Claude Julien said. "We have nobody else to blame but ourselves."
The Devils are 18-4-0-1 in their last 23 games against the Penguins, including 5-2-1 last season. Gionta had seven goals and five assists against Pittsburgh last season, while Crosby had six goals and six assists in the season series.
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