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Hurricanes to host playoff-bound Penguins

by Brian Compton

PENGUINS (29-10-0) at HURRICANES (16-20-2)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 8-2-0; Carolina 1-9-0

Season Series: This is the second of three meetings. The Carolina Hurricanes earned a 4-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 28 at PNC Arena.

Big Story: Penguins captain Sidney Crosby spoke with reporters Monday while recovering from a broken jaw sustained during a game against the New York Islanders on March 30. He said while his mouth is healing, he's still restricted to a liquid diet, making it difficult for him to maintain the 200 pounds he's listed at.

"It's been shakes," he said. "Hasn't been too enjoyable that way. Maybe next week, I'll be able to [eat solid food]. Milkshakes early on, but trying to keep it a bit more healthy now. It's pretty much impossible to keep weight on right now. I'll be excited when I can eat, for sure."

There is still no timetable for Crosby’s return. He leads the NHL with 56 points (15 goals, 41 assists) in 36 games.

"I'm going to see the doctor this week and probably continue to keep seeing him," Crosby said. "When he feels comfortable kind of that everything has set it and feels like I can go out there and skate and exert, that's something I'll just wait to hear from him."

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh is coming off a split of a home-and-home series against the New York Rangers. After getting blown out in a 6-1 loss at Madison Square Garden last Wednesday, the Pens responded with a 2-1 shootout victory at the Consol Energy Center two nights later.

Pittsburgh enters Tuesday’s action three points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins officially clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday, even though they were idle.

“It’s always nice to have the X get put up there and know you’re going to the postseason, I don’t know if we’ve had it this early the last couple years,” coach Dan Bylsma told the team’s website. “But it’s the first step. It’s certainly something we had our mind on and goals on, but it’s just the first step. We’re looking at these nine games with this group as a lot of areas to get better.

“Certainly just getting into the playoffs is not our goal. (Our goal) is not where we want to finish at the end of the regular season, so still have a significant amount of work to do. But when I see the X in the standings, that’s a good thing.”

Hurricanes: Carolina’s playoff chances are in serious jeopardy. The Hurricanes are winless this month, as they dropped their fifth straight game Monday in a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

“I just think we have to take the positives," forward Jeff Skinner said. "There are a lot of good things in our game. There are some things that we could have done better, but you can't do anything about it now. So, just try to move on and move forward and get ready for the game tomorrow."

Who's hot: Pens forward Chris Kunitz has a goal and three assists in the past five games, while Pascal Dupuis is 3-1-4 in the past five.

Injury report: Besides Crosby, the Penguins are expected to be missing defensemen Paul Martin (hand) and Kris Letang (lower body). … Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin sat out again Monday with an upper-body injury and remains questionable. He’s on an injured list that also features goaltender Cam Ward and defenseman Justin Faulk, who are both out with knee injuries. Joni Pitkanen (heel) is also out.

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