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Hurricanes end disappointing season vs. Penguins

by Joey Olszewski

HURRICANES (19-24-4) at PENGUINS (35-12-0)


Last 10: Carolina 3-5-2; Pittsburgh 7-3-0

Season series: This is the third and final meeting between the clubs this season; they split the first two in Raleigh.

Big story: Some familiar faces will be back in the Consol Energy Center. James Neal and Paul Martin are returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup and Jordan Staal will be playing there for the first time since being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes last June.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: The Carolina Hurricanes end a disappointing season in Pittsburgh. After picking up Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin in the offseason, they were expected tobe playoff contenders. But Carolina is 13th in the East and lost its starting goaltender, Cam Ward, to a MCL sprain in early March.

The Hurricanes ended their home schedule with a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday -- a game made notable when Carolina called up Jared Staal and started him on a line with brothers Eric and Jordan -- while brother Marc, a defenseman with the Rangers, watched while recovering from an eye injury. The Staals became the 10th trio of brothers to play for the same team the four major sports leagues of North America.

"You're looking at a bit of history in hockey," said coach Kirk Muller, who also said he may put the brothers together again on Saturday. "It was fun, and I think the fans enjoyed it. The players on the team thought it was fun."

Penguins: Pittsburgh is heading into its season finale coming off back-to-back losses. The Penguins, who went 22-4 over the last two months, haven't lost three in a row all season, even though they've had a lot of injury problems. The Penguins will be looking to just make it through Saturday's game without suffering any more injuries.

The best news for the Penguins involved someone who won't be playing Saturday. Sidney Crosby skated at practice Friday as he recovers from a broken jaw.

"It's not really up to me," he told the Penguins' official website after practice when asked when he'll be able to play again. "I'll just keep talking to the doctors. It's something they have to be comfortable with the healing.

Who's hot: Jussi Jokinen may have been a low key acquisition by Ray Shero but has been huge for the Pens. Jokinen has been clutch in the faceoff circle and has nine points in nine games for the black and gold.

Injury report: In addition to Crosby, Brooks Orpik and Joe Vitale are out as they recover from lower-body injuries. … Drayson Bowman and Tim Brent are both out due to a lower body injury for the Hurricanes, and Alexander Semin is sidelined with a concussion. Cam Ward (knee) and Joni Pitkanen (heel) have been sidelined for the season.

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