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At the Rink: Penguins at Canadiens

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl will make his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TVAS, SN, ROOT).

Kuhnhackl, who turns 24 on Jan. 21, has a surname that is familiar in international hockey circles. He is the son of Erich Kuhnhackl, who was widely regarded as the top German player of the 1970s and 1980s and was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 1997.

"Obviously, I'm really excited," Tom Kuhnhackl said after the morning skate. "It's been a long time and finally a dream comes true for me, but at the same time I'm a little nervous. I've heard that Montreal is a crazy place to play your first game."

Selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round (No. 110) of the 2010 NHL Draft, Kuhnhackl had seven goals and eight assists in 23 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League when he was recalled along with linemate Bryan Rust on Thursday.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Kuhnhackl is a player who goes to the net.

"He's got a real good ability to get his stick on pucks and he's great at deflecting pucks, so any shots taken from the point, he's good in that area of the rink," Sullivan said. "He can help in the offense that way. He's strong on the puck so he can play down low underneath the hash marks and he's good on the wall. He's good in our end zone. He's a terrific shot blocker, he's a courageous guy and has a great ability to get in front of shots and deny them from getting to our net."

Sullivan is pleased with the current makeup of his lines.

"For the most part they've been solid, they've been playing the game the right way," Sullivan said. "They've been a threat and they're generating scoring chances, so all we can do I guess is try to focus on the process and coach the process. And if we're getting scoring chances and we're playing the right way, sooner or later I think the puck is going to fall in for some of these guys that are playing in the top six, so our hope is that we can continue to stay resilient and keep trying to play the right way and the percentages should be in our favor."

Pittsburgh has scored 10 of its 25 power-play goals in the past nine games, a success rate that hasn't escaped Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.

"I think they're like 39 percent in the last 10 games or something, which is crazy, so staying out of the box is going to be huge for us," Beaulieu said after Montreal's optional morning skate at their suburban practice facility. "Their top six are so dynamic they're going to kill you on special teams, so we don't want to get in a special teams battle with them (Saturday). It's important for us to stay 5-on-5."

Beaulieu will be paired with Greg Pateryn, who enters the lineup because Jeff Petry is out with a lower-body injury.

"I think we complement each other really well," Pateryn said. "We have a lot of chemistry, so I just think just reading off each other we know what each other does best so he's a really good skater with the puck and I'm good at supporting him, and vice versa, too. Just as long as we feed off each other I think we'll be good."

Here are the projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Patric Hornqvist - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Bryan Rust - Nick Bonino - Tom Kuhnhackl

Kevin Porter - Matt Cullen - Eric Fehr

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin - Ben Lovejoy

Ian Cole - Trevor Daley

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Beau Bennett (upper body)

Scratched: Sergei Plotnikov, David Warsofsky, Adam Clendening

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Daniel Carr

Paul Byron - David Desharnais - Sven Andrighetto

Brian Flynn - Torrey Mitchell - Devante Smith-Pelly

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Mark Barberio

Nathan Beaulieu - Greg Pateryn

Mike Condon

Ben Scrivens

Injured: Carey Price (lower body), Dale Weise (upper body), Tom Gilbert (lower body), Jeff Petry (lower body)

Scratched: Jarred Tinordi, Tomas Fleischmann

Status report: Sullivan had little news to report on Bennett's potential return date. "When he's close, we'll inform you that he's close, but to this point we know that he's making progress." Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Friday that Price will remain out until at least after the All-Star break.

Who's hot: Letang has nine points (three goals, six assists) during a four-game point streak. Malkin has two goals and six assists in his past five games. Pacioretty has a five-game point streak (three goals, three assists).

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