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Pens and 'Canes ready for reunions

by Sergei J. Feldman /
PENGUINS (36-20-6) at HURRICANES (28-24-9)

TV -- FS-Pittsburgh (HD), FS-Carolinas (HD)

Last 10 -- Pittsburgh 3-5-2; Carolina 3-4-3

Season series -The Pens and 'Canes are concluding their four-game season series. Pittsburgh has won all three previous meetings, two in regulation.

Big story -- It's reunion night for both teams. Just three days after acquiring James Neal and Matt Niskanen from Dallas in exchange for Alex Goligoski, Penguins' GM Ray Shero pulled the trigger on a trade with Ottawa to bring forward Alex Kovalev back to Pittsburgh, where he spent five seasons from 1998-2003. The Hurricanes are also welcoming back a familiar face -- they acquired Cory Stillman, a member of the '06 Cup-winning team, from Florida for Ryan Carter and a fifth-round draft pick.

Team scope:

Penguins -- Despite losses to key players, including Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee), the Pens have managed to hold the fort well enough to keep fourth place in the East. The injuries have not stopped coming, however, as Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu and most recently Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik have been forced out of the lineup. As a result, the Penguins have won twice in their past nine games. Not being able to put the puck in the net hasn't helped, either. In six of their past nine games, the Penguins have scored two goals or less. Shero hopes Neal and Kovalev will help generate some of the offense that's been missing from his injury-riddled lineup.

"We have a team here that's been decimated by injury, but I'm really proud of the way these guys have really battled and they're getting their points here and there," Shero said of his team's recent performances.

Hurricanes -- The 'Canes are on the bubble -- they're three points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo, which has two games in hand -- and they can't let another game get away, as they did it Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the seventh-place Rangers.

GM Jim Rutherford hopes the return of Stillman will provide some scoring and a shot of leadership.

"This was a good opportunity for us to add some experience," said Rutherford. "Cory adds more depth to our forward lines and we are familiar with what he is capable of doing offensively."

Who's hot -- Tyler Kennedy is the hottest Penguin scorer with 7 goals in his last 12 games. … Carolina has relied on the play of right wing Erik Cole, who is coming off a two-point night and has 4 points in his past five games.

Injury report -- Orpik is the Pens' latest casualty -- he'll miss 4-6 weeks with a broken finger suffered earlier this week. Carolina brings a healthy lineup to the ice against the Pens.

Stat pack -- Kovalev is nine assists shy of 600 for his career. … Carolina's Jeff Skinner leads all NHL rookies in points and assists.

Puck drop -- The fact that the Penguins have been able to stay in the top four despite a barrage of injuries that would have wiped out a lot of teams is s tribute to Pittsburgh's minor-league system, which has provided enough useful bodies to keep the big club afloat.

"It's been crazy, no question," center Jordan Staal told the Penguins' website. " It's just a matter of other guys stepping into bigger roles and playing bigger minutes."

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