One week into 2012, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the midst of a six game losing streak, had just received news that Jordan Staal would be out for a month with a knee injury, and had no answers involving Sidney Crosby's condition.

To say the least, things looked bleak.

Instead of going in the tank, the Penguins rebounded and strung together seven straight wins before the All-Star break. The reason for the quick turnaround was largely due to the success of Evgeni Malkin. After recording just 3 points during the 6 game losing streak, Malkin went on a tear recording 13 points over the last 7 games. Meanwhile, his line mate, James Neal, has tallied 11 points during the 7 game win streak.

The biggest goal, however, may have come from Steve Sullivan in Florida.

Hockey can be a funny sport. Sometimes, when a team is struggling to score (6 total goals in 6 games), the best way to break out is to get a lucky or "dirty" goal. Steve Sullivan took a pass from Matt Cooke who had stolen the puck from Panthers goaltender, Scott Clemmensen. With a wide open net, Sullivan rifled the puck into the twine to give the Penguins the lead. From there, the Penguins exploded with 25 goals over the past 7 games.

The Penguins also got a familiar face back on the blue line in Kris Letang. The star defenseman missed nearly two months with a concussion but has returned to put up a point per game since his recovery.

And now it appears Jordan Staal is getting closer to joining the team. The 23 year old center has been out since January 6th since going knee to knee with former Penguin, Mike Rupp. Staal has 21 points in 34 games this season and has missed games due to lower body injuries before. With his return looming, the Penguins are looking to get stronger defensively and on the penalty kill.

Then there's Sidney Crosby who has missed time with a concussion and what appeared to be a fractured neck. Crosby's return is just as big a question mark as it was this time last year. While coaches, front office employees and trainers believe 87 will return this season, they really have no idea. Either way, you have to believe Pens' GM Ray Shero will be buying at the trade deadline and if Crosby is deemed out, the Pens will have more room to bring in a bigger piece.

The Penguins are certainly heading towards their peak at the right time. They are currently in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, three points back from the Philadelphia Flyers, and six points back from the New York Rangers. With players getting healthy at the right time and Evgeni Malkin continuing to dominate, the Penguins look to enter the postseason with a ton of momentum.

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