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'Canes look to win battle to limit Pens' time and space

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

"if you anticipate too much he (Crosby) knows where you're going and he's going to play it there where you just left, so you got to be careful."
-- Dennis Seidenberg on defending Sidney Crosby

RALEIGH, N.C. - There was a moment early in the second period of Game 2 Thursday when Carolina’s Scott Walker attempted to swing some momentum by putting half-a-hip into Evgeni Malkin as he rounded his net.

The collision, which did send Malkin careening on his butt, got the attention of the Penguins, with Philippe Boucher and Brooks Orpik holding an impromptu meeting with Walker following an icing call seconds later. While the hit didn't necessarily change the complexion of the game -- Malkin would proceed to score the first playoff hat trick of his career -- it did send notice.

It was one of three hits by Walker and 29 total in the game for the Hurricanes. Many expect that number to increase in Game 3 on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) when the 'Canes look to halve Pittsburgh’s 2-0 series lead. Carolina wants to play the body and clog Pittsburgh’s passing lanes.

"You want to be physical when the hit is there, but you want to be able to get the puck when it's there too," Walker told NHL.com. "You just can't manufacture hits; you can't run around and try and hit people because then you're just creating more time and space for them because if you miss them, you've opened up holes."

At the very least, getting in the faces of the Penguins could limit puck possession time for Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who have been lethal so far. Carolina is yielding an average of almost five goals in this series after holding the Devils and Bruins to 2.2 goals per game. Not surprisingly, the Penguins have outshot the Hurricanes 73-53 through two games. The Pens have actually outshot their playoff opponent in 11 straight games, including all seven against the Capitals in the East semifinal.

"What we need to do better is pick and choose our spots where we're going to be very aggressive and not chase things that can't hurt us," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "The first goals scored by Malkin and Crosby were based on what we were doing away from them and not at them. We were chasing pucks that we shouldn't have chased or not recognizing a guy coming off the bench and giving them that ice. But I'm telling you, it's not as easily said as done."

In addition to Walker, Hurricanes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and forward Erik Cole were also in on the Carolina hit parade during Game 2. Seidenberg finished with a team-high five hits. Cole, who played in the game despite suffering a lower-body injury late in Game 1, chipped in with four body checks.

In front of what is sure to be a raucous home crowd, Maurice will have the benefit of the final line change and he'll look to establish some matchups that were hard to come by in Pittsburgh. Who he assigns to Crosby and Malkin makes no difference so long as those players take away that time and space in their defensive approach.

"You want to anticipate, but you don't want to cheat so you try and find a fine line and it's tough," Seidenberg said. "Especially against Crosby -- if you anticipate too much he knows where you're going and he's going to play it there where you just left, so you got to be careful."

Fact is, the Hurricanes will not win this series if the games become high-scoring affairs. Carolina already has allowed 10 goals -- including one empty netter -- in two games after yielding 15 and 17, respectively, in seven-game series against New Jersey and Boston.

"We need to be a little more physical and in their face in order to take away their time and space," defenseman Tim Gleason said. "When you give a good player time and space, they're going to put the puck in the net so that's what we have to take away from them. The more we do that the less they have the opportunity to move the puck."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.

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