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'Canes try to end slump against red-hot Penguins

by John Kreiser

PENGUINS (10-3-3) at HURRICANES (5-8-3)

TV: ROOT (HD); FS-Carolinas (HD)

Last 10:
Pittsburgh 7-2-1; Carolina 2-6-2

Season Series:
The teams are meeting for the first time this season. Pittsburgh won three of the four games in 2010-11, though the Hurricanes took the last one, 4-1 in Raleigh on Feb. 25.

Big Story: The Penguins just keep rolling, even without Sidney Crosby. Friday's 3-1 win against Western Conference-leading Dallas was the Penguins' 10th in 16 games -- all without No. 87, who is expected to return soon. The Hurricanes have dropped to 13th in the East and are back home after a 5-1 loss in New York on Friday in which they surrendered four goals in the third period.

Team Scope:

Pittsburgh had hoped that James Neal would fit right in, preferably on a line with Crosby, when they acquired him from Dallas last February. That hasn't happened yet, but Neal is doing just fine as is -- he scored twice against his old team on Friday and is second in the NHL with 11 goals.

"Of course when you play your former team, you want to do well," Neal said. "Especially with them doing so well and coming in here being a top team. It was a test for us and a test for them, and it feels good to be able to come out on top."

Hurricanes: Carolina was playing a great road game, deadlocked at 1-1 midway through the third period against the Rangers, when the roof fell in. Dan Girardi and Brandon Dubinsky scored nine seconds apart to make it 3-1, and the Rangers added two more to turn a tight game into a blowout -- handing the 'Canes their fourth consecutive loss.

"It's 3-1, and we probably needed a timeout," coach Paul Maurice said of the two goals in nine seconds. "I'm very disappointed with our effort. That was the turning point for sure."

Who's Hot: Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury got the win Friday and is 6-0-1 in his last seven decisions, allowing only 10 goals. … Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner leads Carolina with 14 points, though he's scoreless in his last two games.  

Injury Report: The Hurricanes are healthy. … In addition to Crosby, Tyler Kennedy has been out with a concussion.

Stat Pack: Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin has 12 goals and 27 points in 20 career games against the Hurricanes. He has four goals this season -- all on the road. … Carolina has been outscored 18-6 during its four-game losing streak.

Puck Drop: Neal's goal-scoring binge is all the more remarkable when you consider he scored just once in 20 games after coming over from Dallas. He told the Penguins' Web site he's much more confident this season.

“It’s a combination of everything, playing with great players, and playing a team game combined with the system,” Neal said. “It’s everything and it shows every night we play.”


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