Season series -- The Penguins are looking to win the season series outright for the first time since they swept the Canes in Carolina's inaugural 1997-98 season. They've taken a game in each building, but seven of the eight goals the Pens scored came off the sticks of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, neither of whom will be in the lineup.
Big story -- No Crosby, no Malkin. On Thursday, the Penguins went without both their Art Ross-winning superstars for the first time in the 437 games since Malkin debuted in the NHL, and they'll do it again Saturday night. The Hurricanes finish a tough five-game set against teams above them in the Eastern Conference standings. They're 2-2-0 in the first four.
Hurricanes -- Funny thing about the last two games -- they were against teams fresh off 7-0 victories. Of course, the Hurricanes were the victims themselves of a 7-0 thrashing by the Bruins before playing them tight the next night, while the Rangers had rolled a 7 past Toronto, only to run afoul of a hot Cam Ward in a 4-1 Carolina win.
"He's our wall back there," Chad LaRose said. "A lot of times when we make mistakes, he bails us out and they don't get noticed as much. He's definitely our leader, and we try to play well in front of him."
Ward's 39 saves were the most he'd had since stopping 43 Anaheim Ducks shots on Dec. 18.
Penguins -- They had managed to win three in a row without Crosby, but not having Malkin proved to be a bit much to handle Thursday night in New Jersey.
What they didn't do was give Martin Brodeur much to handle, taking only 23 shots in a 2-0 shutout which was their second in six games.
"We've been up and down since Sid's been out," defenseman Paul Martin said. "With our top two guys out, it's tough to shuffle lines and try to get things going. We just couldn't do it tonight."
Who's hot -- Much of the Pens' offensive burden will shift to the shoulders of Jordan Staal, who had 3 goals and 3 assists in the three games before Thursday's shutout. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been hot for a while now, going 20-5-2 since Nov. 10 and helping offset the offensive dropoff. Canes captain and Jordan's brother Eric Staal has 8 goals and 4 assists in his last eight games, while Jussi Jokinen has 6 goals and 3 assists in his last six games.
Injury report -- Crosby remains day-to-day while Malkin deals with a viral infection in addition to his sore knee. ... Carolina is injury-free
Stat pack -- The Hurricanes' next win will be their 1,000th since joining the NHL from the WHA as the Hartford Whalers for the 1979-80 season. … Eric Staal has 26 points in 25 regular-season games against Pittsburgh and when he scores a goal against the Pens, the Hurricanes are 8-1-0. The Canes are 6-11-3 against any team above them in the Eastern Conference. … Since their arrival in Carolina in 1997, the Hurricanes have either split or won season series with the Penguins.
Puck drop -- "I think the players we had didn't execute very well. We made some mental mistakes early on that allowed them some opportunities, and we didn't put ourselves any kind of situation to have success the way the players on the ice were playing this game." -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on how the Pens' shutout loss to the Devils had little do with injuries