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Pittsburgh vs. Carolina Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

THE FUNDAMENTALS
Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-1-9) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (3-1-1-7)

Where: Mellon Arena
When: Thursday, October 23, 7:38 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*Check HD schedule and television
 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Dupuis-Crosby-Malkin
Fedotenko-Staal-Sykora
Kennedy-Talbot-Satan
Bissonnette-Zigomanis-Godard

Defense
Orpik-Scuderi
Letang-Eaton
Sydor-Goligoski

Goalkeeper
Fleury
 
KEYS TO VICTORY
Win the Draw: Rod Brind'Amour is one of the best faceoff men in the NHL. The Penguins have given up two goals following faceoff loses deep in their zone. They need to raise their game in the faceoff circle before it costs them another goal.

Limit Shots: Pittsburgh has given up 33.4 shots per game, the third most in the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury and Dany Sabourin have played splendid in net but are seeing more rubber than the Ford Factory. Expecting them to perform at such a high level for the entire season is unrealistic. The Penguins need to help them out and limit their shots against.

Get The Right Staal Going: Jordan has two assists in seven games. He's still learning to work with his new linemates but going against his brother may be the spark that he needs to really get going. The Penguins need him to breakout to have two dangerous scoring lines.
 
LOWDOWN ON THE 'CANES
The Hurricanes became the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons after winning the Stanley Cup. Carolina finished two-points shy of a postseason berth despite injuries to captain Rod Brind’Amour (knee), Justin Williams (knee), Matt Cullen (concussion) and Ray Whitney (ankle). The group missed a combined 67 games but the Hurricanes still finished with a 43-33-6 record for 92 points. They were leading in the Southeast Division towards the end of the season but couldn’t hold off a surging Washington Capitals team. Carolina lost four of its last six games, two of which to Washington, and lost the division title to the Capitals by two points. All in all, the Hurricanes amassed 333-man games lost to injuries. Carolina is determined to return to the playoffs and general manager Jim Rutherford made some deals late last year and in the offseason to get there. The Hurricanes qualified for the playoffs only twice in the last six seasons. But on those two occasions they reached the Stanley Cup Final, losing to Detroit, 4-1, in 2002, and winning the championship against Edmonton, 4-3, in 2006.

Head coach Peter Laviolette enters his fifth season in Carolina. He’s led the Hurricanes to a fast start on the current campaign with a 3-1-1 mark. Getting off to a good start is a bonus for Carolina, which opens the season with a brutal schedule. They start the season with only two home games in the month of October, ending with six straight road games. Their game in Pittsburgh is the third installment of that road swing.
 
FORWARDS
Carolina’s forwards were hit hard with injuries last season. The team lost Brind’Amour after 59 games last season. Brind’Amour is an incredible two-way center and may be the best in the league in the faceoff circle. At 38 years old, his experience and leadership has been a steadying influence in the Carolina locker room for the past eight seasons. He'll be centering a line with Cullen and Whitney. Whitney is the only Hurricane to register a point in every game this season and has recorded seven 20-plus goal seasons in his career.

Eric Staal will eventually become the face of the franchise, if he isn’t already. Staal has proven to be a lethal goal scorer, amassing 45, 30 and 38 goals in the last three seasons. He’s missed only one game in his entire career, playing in 332 of a possible 333 contests. He'll play between Sergie Samsonov and Patrick Eaves.

Williams also has a goal-scorer’s touch. Last year, his season was cut short after only 37 games, but he notched 33 and 31 goals in the two years prior. Unfortunately, he had surgery for his torn right Achilles tendon on Sept. 18 and will miss four to six months. Carolina also re-signed forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Samsonov after trading for them last year. Ruutu is day-to-day with a leg injury.
 
DEFENSE
The Hurricanes’ defense has been overhauled since last season. Longtime blue line standout Glen Wesley retired and Bret Hedican became a free agent. Rutherford traded Erik Cole to Edmonton for Joni Pitkanen. He is a big presence - 6-2, 200 pounds - and has a lot of offensive abilities. Rutherford re-signed Joe Corvo after he scored 21 points in 23 games with Carolina after the team traded for him last season. Tim Gleason has been a physical force for Carolina’s defense, recording 151 hits. The remaining minutes will be divided amongst Frantisek Kaberle, Niclas Wallin and free agent additions Anton Babchuk and former Penguin Joseph Melichar. Kaberle fractured his leg and is out for 2-4 weeks.
 
GOALTENDING
Ward is looking to get back to his Conn Smyth form. At 24 years old, he is still relatively young and has improved each season. Last year, he set career highs in games played (69), wins (37), GAA (2.75) and save percentage (.904). Ward’s 37 wins were fourth most in the NHL.

With backup John Grahame’s departure, the team inked 27-year-old Michael Leighton to a two-year deal. Leighton was the AHL Goalie of the Year last season after going 28-25-4 with a 2.10 goal against average and a .931 save percentage with the Albany River Rats. In two games this season, he’s 2-0-0 with a 1.92 GAA and .935 save percentage.
 
NEW FACES
The biggest offseason move Rutherford made was sending Cole to Edmonton for Pitkanen. The Hurricanes general manager spent most of the time re-signing players that he had acquired during the season: Corvo, Samsonov and Ruutu. The return of Brind’Amour, Cullen, Williams and Whitney could be the biggest additions to this year’s squad. Rutherford added free agents Babchuk and Melichar.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: JONI PITKANEN
Pitkanen was the No. 4 overall selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s got size and skill, and is still a very young player at 25 years old. In his final two seasons in Philadelphia he registered 89 points (21G-72A) in 135 games. He notched eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points in Edmonton last season. Pitkanen still has a ton of upside and Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford wants him to be the cornerstone of the defensive corps.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
"For us, our philosophy, its not about the Hurricanes. It’s about how we perform."
Head coach Michel Therrien
 
HIDDEN STAT
235: The number of wins for coach Peter Laviolette, second most ever for a U.S.-born NHL coach. With Carolina's 3-1 victory over Anaheim on Sunday, Laviolette moved ahead of Badger Bob Johnson (234) on the list.
 

 

 

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