| Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Carolina Hurricanes |
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|Eric Staal |
| ||C - #12 |
|• The forward, who is the older brother of Penguins center Jordan Staal by three years, was named one of the captains for the NHL All-Star Game that will take place on Jan. 30 at the Hurricanes’ home arena. |
• Passed Rod Brind’Amour on Jan. 15 vs. Tampa Bay to become the Hurricanes’ all-time points leader since relocation with a three-point effort that gave him 473 total points.
• After scoring 31 points in his rookie campaign, the offensively-gifted center has posted 70-plus points in the five seasons since and is on track to do so for a sixth-straight time.
|Jeff Skinner |
| ||C - #53 |
|• The youngest player in the NHL, who doesn’t turn 19 until May, is having quite the breakout season for the Hurricanes, with his 39 points leading all league rookies by an eight-point margin and ranking second (tied) on the team. |
• Made the Hurricanes squad out of training camp after being selected in the first round (seventh overall) by Carolina just a few months earlier in that summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
• The 5-foot-11, 193-pound center tallied 90 points (50G-40A) in 64 games with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League in his last season of juniors before turning pro.
|Cam Ward |
| ||G - #30 |
|• The 26-year-old passed Arturs Irbe on Monday against Boston to become the franchise’s leader in games played by a goaltender with 309. |
• Became the first goalie since Patrick Roy in 1986 to win the Stanley Cup in his rookie year, backstopping the ‘Canes to the championship in 2006.
• His 15 wins in that postseason (which tied a rookie record for wins) earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, and he went on to post 30 or more victories in his next three regular seasons.
|The Hurricanes sit just out of playoff contention, with their 23-18-6 record and 52 points putting them in ninth place – just one win behind Southeast Division rival Atlanta. In order to propel themselves into the postseason, Carolina is looking to put together more consistent stretches of hockey, as they have yet to string together a winning streak of more than three games so far this season. |
What’s been working for the Hurricanes is their ability to respond to adversity. After a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Boston on Monday, Carolina has put up two greatly improved performances. The Hurricanes fired 45 shots on goal and had 28 more blocked in a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Tuesday before pulling out a resounding 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Carolina boasts impressive depth up top, with the offensive burden shouldered by the ever-consistent play of captain Eric Staal, on a point-per-game pace with 22 goals and 47 points through 47 games. He and linemate Jussi Jokinen have been hot for the Hurricanes on the team’s top trio, combining for eight goals and 15 points in their last six games.
Rookie sensation Jeff Skinner has proven that his hot start wasn’t just a fluke, as he continues to consistently post big numbers and be a big factor for his team. Skinner’s 39 points rank second (tied) on the squad and are tops amongst league rookies by an eight-point margin. The Hurricanes are 12-2-0 when he scores a goal.
In addition to the consistency from Staal, Jokinen and Skinner, players like Chad LaRose and Eric Sutter have been stepping up as well. LaRose has three goals in his last four games after tallying just once in the 25 contests before that, while Sutter broke a 16-game scoring drought on Thursday.
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- This is the third meeting between the two teams, with Pittsburgh winning both of the previous two contests. Brent Johnson made 33 saves en route to earning a 3-0 shutout at CONSOL Energy Center on Oct. 30, with Pascal Dupuis netting a pair of goals in the win. The Penguins then skated to a 5-4 shootout victory over the Hurricanes on Nov. 19 at the RBC Center, with Sidney Crosby putting forth a four-point effort (1G-3A) and Chris Kunitz scoring twice in the win.
- The Penguins enter Saturday’s tilt with a 15-9-1 record at CONSOL Energy Center, Penguins, going 13-4-1 in their past 18 home games. They have scored five or more goals in seven of those games and at least three goals 11 times. In those 18 games they are averaging 3.6 goals per game.
- The Penguins will sport their powder blue third jersey on Saturday when they face off against the Hurricanes. Pittsburgh is 5-2 so far this season in those jerseys and 17-9-3 all-time.
- Pittsburgh is now 10-2 overall against teams from the Southeast Division. In 12 games against Southeast foes, the Penguins have scored 49 goals for an average of 4.08 per game and have surrendered just 27 tallies, a goals-against average of 2.22. Pittsburgh has killed off 51 of 57 opposition power plays – including all nine Carolina man-advantages – for a success rate of 89.5 percent.
- For the first time since Evgeni Malkin joined the Penguins in 2006-07, Pittsburgh played a game without both Malkin and Sidney Crosby at New Jersey Jan. 20. The Penguins own a 24-14-8 all-time record with Crosby out of the lineup and a 12-12-1 all-time record without Malkin.
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|Contributions From All Over the Lineup: With the two-headed monster that is Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sidelined for an unspecified amount of time, the Penguins have to keep getting tangible contributions from the rest of the lineup, especially those taking on bigger roles with the absences of those two star players. Mark Letestu is getting a chance for more ice time on the team’s top line between Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Max Talbot had a phenomenal outing against New Jersey despite not getting a point. |
Get the Defense Involved: The Penguins are known for their group of mobile, puck-moving defensemen, and the team benefits every time their blueliners get involved in the play. Pittsburgh’s best scoring chances against the Devils came when players like Alex Goligoski and Ben Lovejoy joined the rush and made themselves viable passing options. The entire defensive corps will need to get involved in the play against Carolina on Tuesday to keep the Hurricanes contained in their own end and fire pucks at Ward.
| ||F Mike Comrie, hip (IR) |
C Sidney Crosby, mild concussion (indefinitely)
F Eric Godard, eye (IR)
F Evgeni Malkin, knee/illness (day-to-day)
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| ||None |
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|Crosby (32) ||Staal (22) |
|Crosby (34) ||Ruutu (27) |
|Crosby (66) ||Staal (47) |
|Engelland/Rupp (76) ||Gleason (47) |
|Letang/Goligoski (+21) ||Sutter (+7) |
|Crosby (10) ||Jokinen (7) |
|Cooke (2) |
|Staal (2) |
|Fleury (21-11-2) ||Ward (20-14-5) |
|Johnson (2.04) ||Ward (2.67) |
|Johnson (.926) ||Ward (.921) |
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| ||Chris Kunitz - Kunitz has been the epitome of consistency for the Penguins despite playing without injured linemate Sidney Crosby. Although he was held off the scoresheet in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 loss to New Jersey on Thursday, the left winger had been riding a three-game goal streak before that, finding the back of the net in wins over Montreal, Boston and Detroit. He has eight goals in his last 13 contests and 16 for the season, ranking second on the team behind Crosby. The Penguins are 10-2-1 so far this season when Kunitz scores a goal. And not only is Kunitz stepping up offensively, but he’s playing a punishing physical game, ranking third on the team with 107 hits. |
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| ||Jussi Jokinen - The left winger has been on fire for the ‘Canes since returning from a leg injury on Jan. 11 that sidelined him for five games. He scored two goals and added an assist in that contest, leading his team to a 6-5 shootout victory over Calgary. He then tallied an assist in a 3-2 loss to Buffalo on Jan. 13 before putting forth another two-goal, one-assist effort in a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay on Jan. 15. Jokinen’s efforts got him named the NHL’s ‘First Star’ for the week ending Jan. 16. He’s still rolling this week, riding a two-game goal streak after scoring in Carolina’s 3-2 loss to Buffalo on Tuesday and their 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday. Jokinen now has 35 points (12G-23A) through 41 games. || |
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