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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 6-3 win against the Minnesota Wild at PPG Paints Arena.

* The Pens continue to trend upward. Pittsburgh won its 7th game in the past 9, which includes a 4-game winning streak. With the win the Pens hopped into 2nd place in the Metro Division (barring the outcome of Columbus at Arizona). Just 3 weeks ago many had left the Pens for dead. Once again they’ve risen from the ashes.

* Sidney Crosby’s legacy is well set in the city of Pittsburgh. Although Mario Lemieux is the greatest player to ever wear a Penguins sweater (or play the game in general for that matter), Crosby removed any question as to which player is the second greatest to don the black and gold.

Crosby picked up 3 assists against the Wild to give him 1,082 career points, surpassing Jaromir Jagr (1,079) for second place on the team’s all-time scoring list. And now only Lemieux (1,723) stands between Crosby and the mountaintop.

* Sticking with the Crosby theme, he now has a season-long 9-game scoring streak for 19 points (3G-16A). That gives him 55 total on the season, and he has inched his way to within 6 (barring other game outcomes) of Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead.

* Crosby surpassed Jagr in the most Crosby way ever. He backchecked into the neutral zone to steal a puck, pivoted and darted into the offensive zone before finding rookie Dominik Simon to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

* Speaking of Simon, the 23-year-old winger scored 2 goals against Minnesota, his first career 2-goal game. And he scored both in impressive fashion, snapping off hard wrist shots form the high slot and perfectly into the corner. Simon has an incredible release on his shot, and I love seeing him not afraid to use it.

Simon has 3 goals in his past 2 games and a 3-game scoring streak (3G-1A). The rookie has looked comfortable on Crosby’s wing, and now the production is starting to come.

* While Crosby is stealing a lot of the headlines and attention, don’t forget about Phil Kessel and Malkin. Kessel picked up 3 assists while Malkin added 3 points (2G-1A). The 3-headed Monster led the charge for the Pens.

Kessel now has 58 points on the season, just 3 behind Kucherov. And Malkin stands at 52.

* The Pens welcomed back center Matt Cullen. The former Pen signed with his hometown Minnesota Wild in the offseason. Cullen was a member of the Pens’ past 2 Stanley Cup titles. He was affectionately referred to as “dad” by his teammates for his mentor and leadership role. The crowd gave Cullen a huge ovation as the “Thank You” video played for him during the 1st period.

* One negative in the game for Pittsburgh was the number of penalties taken by the team. Pittsburgh was penalized 5 times in the contest, and twice for closing their hand on the puck. Those types of mental lapses are inexcusable at this time of the season. Luckily the Pens’ PK stood tall, but it did cost rookie goalie Casey DeSmith his shutout.

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When Sidney Crosby is asked to describe his ideal linemate, it’s mostly a matter of three words: “speed” and “give and go.”

“Speed is so important,” Crosby said after the Penguins beat Boston, 6-5 in overtime, Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena. “Everyone’s fast. So, number one, you’ve got to be able to skate.

“The give-and-go is important. That probably tailors more to my strengths and how I like to play. That comes a little easier than the long, stretch pass or someone who likes to play a lot of one-on-one. The give-and-go-game is probably the biggest thing.”

Crosby has centered a plethora of wingers since he came to Pittsburgh in 2005. The latest are two rookies, 23-year-old Dominik Simon and 20-year-old Daniel Sprong, each summoned from the Penguins’ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton farm club and drafted to play with Crosby by way of trying to balance the scoring among the Pens’ top three lines.

“Dominik and Spronger have done a nice job in this early part of their NHL careers,” Coach Mike Sullivan said. “It’s going to be a game-by-game process for them. It’s hard to bring it night in and night out. That’s part of the learning process when you’re dealing with young players.

“So far they’ve had a couple of really strong games [skating on Crosby's line]. We’re hoping we can build on that, and it certainly gives us the ability to create the balance we’re looking for.”

Sprong is an intriguing topic, a natural goal-scorer through Major Junior now skating with perhaps hockey’s best playmaker. The Penguins selected Sprong in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Sprong scored 18 goals in 29 games with the WBS Penguins this season. He netted 117 times in 199 games while skating with Charlottetown, P.E.I., of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Sprong says he’s not intimidated by playing on Crosby’s line.

“I try to play my game,” Sprong said. “The biggest thing for me is trying not to watch him all the time. He’s such a great player.

“You just try to always be ready, and find the right spots to make it easy for him to give the puck. When I have it, he’s always in the right spot, so it’s easy for me to give him a pass. With Dom, we’re starting to talk a lot out there. We’re trying to find each other on the same page.”

Sprong is a shooter: Witness 18 shots in five games with the Penguins since being called up from Wilkes/Barre-Scranton.

“When I have a chance to shoot, I’m going to shoot,” Sprong said. “Sid’s an unbelievable passer and an unbelievable player. So I just try to put myself in the right spot and when I have a chance to shoot, I’ve got to shoot.”

Crosby assisted each of Sprong’s goals this season, both tallied in the Penguins’ 4-0 away win over the New York Islanders Jan. 5.

“They’re quick,” Crosby said of his current linemates. “They’ve got that energy and excitement, being in the NHL and playing some games. That urgency is there. We need that every night, and they certainly bring that.

“Spronger has got a great shot. Dom sees the ice well and makes little plays. We’ve seen some good shifts so far, but it’s been more that every line’s found a way to play in the offensive zone. When you do that, you’re getting tired defensive pairings and tired lines out there, and everyone benefits when that’s happening.”