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Hurricanes-Penguins Preview

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GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (41-14-4) at Pittsburgh Penguins (14-35-11).

TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

With the way his team is playing, Carolina Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette doesn't mind spending most of the next two weeks away from home.

The Hurricanes will begin a stretch of nine of 10 games on the road when they visit the lowly Pittsburgh Penguins.

Carolina embarks on that trip as the league's best team with 86 points through 59 games.

"It's good to get out on the road a little bit," said Laviolette, whose team has won 18 of 22 since Dec. 31. "When it's over, trust me, it'll be time to come home, but we've got a great group in there in the locker room.

"I think the road trips once in a while are good for you."

Before starting its road stretch, Carolina beat the Florida Panthers 5-2 on Friday to improve to an NHL-best 26-5-1 at home. The 26 home wins equaled the team's franchise record set by the 1986-87 Hartford Whalers.

Carolina's two leading scorers carried the team again as Eric Staal and Erik Cole each tallied two goals. Cole added an assist.

Staal is tied for second in the NHL with 38 goals and is third with 78 points. He has also been potent against the Penguins, recording three goals and five assists in three games.

Cory Stillman, who had two assists against Florida, has notched three goals and four assists in three contests against Pittsburgh.

Goaltender Martin Gerber made 37 saves in his first action since helping lead unheralded Switzerland into the medal round at the Olympics. He is tied with three players for second in the league in wins with 29.

The Hurricanes lost two of their last three on the road before the Olympic break, but hope to improve that mark against Pittsburgh. The Penguins have lost four straight at home and nine of their last 10, including a 4-3 setback to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

After trailing 4-0 after two periods, Pittsburgh rallied with three third-period goals from John LeClair, Andre Roy and Jani Rita but fell short.

"We didn't give up. We tried to keep coming, and we got a bounce on Roy's goal," said rookie Sidney Crosby, held without a goal for the first time in three games.

Pittsburgh has lost four of its last six meetings with Carolina.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 86 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Penguins - 39 points, 5th place, 41 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 38 goals and 78 points; Stillman, 42 assists; Mike Commodore, 90 PIM. Penguins - Crosby, 28 goals, 37 assists and 65 points; Brooks Orpik, 83 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 19 percent (75 for 395), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (266 for 324), 16th. Penguins - Power play: 18.4 percent (69 for 375), 10th (tied). Penalty killing: 77.4 percent (309 for 399), 30th.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Gerber (29-9-2, 3 SO, 2.71 GAA); Cam Ward (12-5-2, 3.42). Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury (7-21-4, 3.31); Sebastien Caron (6-4-4, 4.19).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 10; Penguins, 4-3. At Raleigh, N.C., LeClair and Crosby each had a goal and an assist to lead the Penguins to their first road victory in more than a month. Staal had two goals for the Hurricanes.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 15-9-3 on the road; Penguins - 7-17-6 at home.

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