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Penguins at Hurricanes preview

Pittsburgh, Carolina each looks to gain in Metropolitan, strengthen playoff position

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

PENGUINS (39-24-10) at HURRICANES (39-25-7) 



The Game

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes will try to improve their Stanley Cup Playoff position when the Metropolitan Division rivals face off at PNC Arena on Tuesday.

Defenseman Kris Letang will be a game-time decision for the Penguins, who are third in the division, three points behind the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals and three ahead of the Hurricanes. Letang has missed 11 games with an upper-body injury.

The Hurricanes hold the first wild card from the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and four ahead of the Montreal Canadiens.

Goalie Matt Murray will start for the Penguins, who are 6-2-1 in their past nine games.

The Hurricanes are 11-3-1 in their past 15 games.


Players to watch 

Penguins center Sidney Crosby has 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in his past 19 games but none in his past two.

Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in his past 16 games.


They said it 

"I think everybody senses the fact that it's like a playoff game and has those implications for both teams. With the end in sight, as far as the regular season goes, there's nothing to save it for. That usually brings out the best in us. It's important that we get comfortable in these kind of games." -- Penguins forward Matt Cullen 

"It's not just another game. Obviously there's a lot at stake in terms of our opponent and where we're at (in the standings). I think the game is going to take on a little more emotion because of it. I think it will be a big game and as close to a playoff game as you're going to get." -- Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour


Penguins projected lineup

Jared McCann -- Sidney Crosby -- Jake Guentzel

Bryan Rust -- Teddy Blueger -- Phil Kessel

Dominik Simon -- Nick Bjugstad -- Patric Hornqvist

Joseph Blandisi -- Matt Cullen -- Garrett Wilson

Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang

Jack Johnson -- Justin Schultz

Marcus Pettersson -- Erik Gudbranson

Matt Murray

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Juuso Riikola, Zach Trotman

Injured: Olli Maatta (upper body), Chad Ruhwedel (upper body), Zach Aston-Reese (lower body) 


Hurricanes projected lineup 

Nino Niederreiter -- Sebastian Aho -- Justin Williams

Andrei Svechnikov -- Jordan Staal -- Teuvo Teravainen

Micheal Ferland -- Lucas Wallmark -- Jordan Martinook

Warren Foegele -- Greg McKegg -- Brock McGinn

Jaccob Slavin -- Dougie Hamilton

Brett Pesce -- Justin Faulk

Haydn Fleury -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Curtis McElhinney

Petr Mrazek

Scratched: Saku Maenalanen

Injured: Calvin de Haan (eye)


Status report 

Kessel will play in his 320th consecutive game, surpassing the Penguins record set by Craig Adams (2009-14). … Maatta took part in the morning skate wearing a non-contact jersey. … The Hurricanes did not hold a morning skate. ... De Haan practiced Monday wearing a full face shield.


Stat pack 

Murray is 6-3-0 with a 1.87 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in 10 games against the Hurricanes. … Guentzel has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his past nine games. ... Carolina can win 40 games for the first time since 2010-11.

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