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Pens look to bounce back vs. inconsistent Canes

by Sergei J. Feldman
HURRICANES (9-9-0) at PENGUINS (10-8-2)

TV -- FS-CR (HD), FS-P (HD)

Last 10 --
Carolina 5-5-0; Pittsburgh 5-4-1

Season series -- This will be the second of four matchups between the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals combatants. Pittsburgh claimed the first matchup with a 3-0 shutout effort in Raleigh. Backup goaltender Brent Johnson stood tall for the Penguins in net, while Pascal Dupuis had his 2010 coming out party with two goals.

Big Story --
The Hurricanes recently made noise by acquiring Brett Sutter and Ian White from the Calgary Flames in exchange for defenseman Anton Babchuk and forward Tom Kostopoulos. Sutter will join his cousin Brent in Carolina. White is expected to debut against the Penguins.

"You're obviously a little bit surprised at first," White said of the trade. "I didn't see it coming at all. Once it sinks in, you get excited when you start thinking about where you're going next."

Team Scope:

Hurricanes --
Inconsistency has been the theme for the Canes of late. In the past four games, they’ve beaten Edmonton 7-1, lost 8-1 to Philadelphia and 7-2 to Montreal and, most recently, won 7-1 against Ottawa. The blowout wins are always welcome, but the lopsided losses have kept the Hurricanes outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Penguins --
After a heartbreaking loss to the New York Rangers on Monday night, the Penguins responded with one of their strongest efforts Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks, winning 3-1. All of a sudden, a previously inconsistent Pens team has put together a 4-1-1 run and will look to close out a five-game homestand on a positive note against the Canes.

Who's hot --
The Penguins’ recent success, not surprisingly, can be traced to the strong play of their "Big Three" -- which, when Jordan Staal is out, would consist of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby is riding a seven-game scoring streak and has collected points in 10 of his past 12 games. Meanwhile, Malkin has tallied in four of his past six games and Fleury has returned to form with three wins and an overtime loss in his past four starts.

For the Canes, captain Eric Staal has done nothing but torment opponents, registering 13 points in his past five games.

Injury report --
The Hurricanes skate into their game against the Penguins healthy, while Pittsburgh is still missing Staal, who is out indefinitely with a broken right hand.

Stat pack --
Canes rookie Jeff Skinner will look to tally his first point after being held pointless in his past three games. … Kris Letang of the Penguins ranks second among NHL defenseman in points with 17.

Puck drop --
Crosby will look to continue chasing Steven Stamkos for most points in the NHL. Entering the game, Stamkos has 35 to Crosby's 29.

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