PENGUINS (13-7-0) at HURRICANES (9-8-1)
TV: NHLN-US, ROOT, FS-Carolinas
Last 10: Pittsburgh 6-4-0; Carolina 5-4-1
Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the Eastern Conference clubs this season.
Big story: Since this is the first meeting of the season between the Hurricanes and Penguins it's also the first time they've played since the summer swap of centers that sent Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh to Carolina in exchange for Brandon Sutter. Staal has been playing second-line center behind his brother, Eric, all season for the Hurricanes. Sutter has moved up to center the Penguins' second line in the absence of Evgeni Malkin.
Penguins: Pittsburgh's offense hasn't skipped a beat without Malkin (concussion), but the Penguins have a few things to clean up defensively.
They have scored nine goals in the two games that Malkin has missed since his injury last week, but they have also given up nine, including five power-play goals. Florida went 4-for-7 on the power play in a 6-4 win Tuesday night at BB&T Center. Tampa Bay scored on one of its two power play opportunities on Sunday.
"We're obviously going to have to take a hard look at it," forward Craig Adams said of the penalty kill following the game Tuesday. "Part of it is taking too many penalties and 5-on-3s and stuff like that. But even 5-on-4, we're not nearly good enough. We're going to have to figure it out."
There was some good news Wednesday. Coach Dan Bylsma told reporters that Malkin skated for roughly 30 minutes back in Pittsburgh; it was his first physical activity since suffering his concussion last Friday.
"He was symptom-free [Tuesday] and progressed to exercise [Wednesday]," Bylsma said.
Hurricanes: Carolina is coming off a 3-0 loss Tuesday at Washington, where despite throwing 33 shots on goal the Hurricanes just couldn't beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. The Hurricanes were hoping to build on their 4-2 win over the Islanders on Sunday, but Holtby and the Capitals had other ideas.
Turning the page, the game Thursday isn't a homecoming for Jordan Staal (it's not in Pittsburgh), but he has hinted that it is a big deal to him to play his former teammates. He also has said he doesn't plan to lose.
"It's going to be weird," Staal told the Raleigh News & Observor. "I've seen it a lot, being in Pittsburgh and seeing other guys go. Now to be on the other side is a little different. It's just going to be fun to play against those guys and just try to beat them."
Who's hot: Pittsburgh's new top line of Sidney Crosby between James Neal and Chris Kunitz has produced four goals and seven assists for 11 points in the two games that Malkin has missed.
Injury report: The Penguins are without Malkin (concussion). … Carolina is playing without defensemen Joni Pitkanen (lower body), Tim Gleason (lower body) and Jamie McBain (upper body). Jeff Skinner (concussion) and Tuomo Ruutu (hip) are also out.