Pittsburgh Penguins (42-24-5-89) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (29-33-8-66)
09-10 Season Series: Series tied 1-1-1 09-10 Home vs. Carolina: Penguins trail 0-1 All-Time vs. Carolina: Penguins lead 51-48-14 All-Time Home vs. Carolina: Penguins trail 27-22-6 Overtime: Penguins lead 5-3-11 Shootout: Series tied 1-1
Carolina battled early-season injuries to Cam Ward, Eric Staal and Erik Cole, resulting in the team falling from Eastern Conference Finalists in May to the cellar this season. They appeared to be inching their way back towards playoff contention with another late season run much like the one they went on at the end of last season, but a 1-2 stretch since defeating the Penguins in overtime on March 11 has them back in 14th place in the conference, just four points in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Alexandre Picard – Carolina acquired the 24-year-old blueliner from Ottawa just before the Olympic break in a package which sent Matt Cullen to Canada’s capital city. Picard is a smooth-skating two-way defender who has great size at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. He will have an opportunity to log major minutes in all situations down the stretch as he attempts to solidify a spot as one of the team’s top-four defensemen heading into next season. Picard has a ton of talent; he just needs to put it together on a consistent basis. Picard could be out against the Penguins on Saturday after suffering a hand injury Thursday night. Brian Pothier – While it might have hurt to lose Joe Corvo to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline, Carolina picked up a very serviceable replacement in exchange in Pothier. The 32-year-old defenseman is very reliable in his own zone. Pothier has a good stick and is not afraid to mix it up in front of the net. He can also supply occasional offense. Pothier has five goals and 14 points in 49 games, including the game-winning goal in overtime against the Penguins on March 11.
Jussi Jokinen – In his first full season with the Canes, Jokinen is proving to be an accomplished goal scorer. He leads Carolina in goals with a career-high 27 and his 56 points have established a new career high. Blessed with some of the best one-on-one moves in the game, Jokinen has scored in 11 of his previous 18 games.
Tuomo Ruutu – The younger brother of former Penguin Jarkko has found his NHL niche as a solid 15-, to 20-goal scorer who is not afraid to agitate the opposition. A member of Finland’s bronze-medal team in Vancouver, Ruutu has picked up a point in six of nine games since the break for a total of eight points (2G-6A). In his first full season with Carolina last year Ruutu established career highs across the board with 26 goals, 28 assists and 54 points.
Sergei Samsonov – A little jitterbug at 5-foot-8, Samsonov’s speed and quickness is a perfect fit in Carolina’s up-tempo system. The 31-year-old Russian has 13 goals through his first 60 games, putting him on pace to top last season’s total of 16. Samsonov has found a home of sorts in Carolina after bouncing around between Boston, Edmonton, Montreal and Chicago following the lockout.
Eric Staal – If anyone needed a refresher course on what kind of offensive presence Staal can be, he provided one at the Vancouver Games. Playing on a line with Sidney Crosby for much of the second-half of the tournament, Staal ranked third on the team with five assists in seven games and totaled six points. He has also been a force once again with Carolina, hitting the 20-goal plateau for the fifth-straight season. He replaced Brind’Amour as team captain on Jan. 20.
Brandon Sutter – The way Brandon Sutter has developed over the course of this season has to make Carolina feel pretty good about the 1-2 punch of Sutter and Staal anchoring their team for the next 10 years. Still just 21, Sutter ranks fourth on the team with 17 goals. The Red Deer, Alberta native was the ninth member of his family to be drafted into the NHL when he was selected 11th overall in 2007. Like his father, Brent, and many of his uncles, Sutter is fundamentally sound defensively. At 6-foot-3, he is going to be a horse when he fills his frame out.
Ray Whitney – This might have been the most popular name in rumors leading up to the NHL trade deadline last week, and for good reason. At 37-years-old Whitney is still one of the craftiest offensive players in the league. His 52 points (21G-31A) allow him to surpass the 50-point plateau for the seventh time in the past eight seasons. In addition to being a good goal scorer and solid playmaker, Whitney is talented enough to man the point on the power play. He has four goals in three games against the Penguins this season.
Tuomo Ruutu Eric Staal
Brandon Sutter Ray Whitney
Brett Carson – Recent moves by the Hurricanes to ship Joe Corvo, Aaron Ward and Nic Wallin out of town has presented a great opportunity for 23-year-old blueliner Carson. Blessed with great size at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Carson is more of a stick-on-puck fundamentally-sound defender than he is physical presence. Still, he has given the Hurricanes great minutes as he has recently paired up with Joni Pitkanen. Carson ranks second among Carolina defenders with a plus-3 rating.
Jamie McBain – Having already traded three key blueliners away at the trading deadline, the injury bug further decimated Carolina’s defensive corps by claiming Tim Gleason and Alexandre Picard. Just like in the case of Carson, 22-year-old Jamie McBain is stepping up and taking advantage of the opportunity. McBain has picked up assists in both of his first two games. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound rookie was especially impressive against Washington on Thursday, logging 25:29 minutes of ice time and posting a plus-2 rating.
Joni Pitkanen – From time-to-time you will hear coaches talk about how plus/minus rating can be a misleading statistic. Pitkanen’s minus-10 rating is a perfect example. Such a stat might indicate the Finnish rearguard is having a down season, but that’s just not correct. Nobody is seeing more ice time than Pitkanen’s 27:18 average time. Pitkanen is on pace to set a new career high offensively thanks to his 42 points (5G-37A) through 56 games. He is two assists shy of tying his career high of 39 set in 2006-07 with the Flyers. When he is on his game, Pitkanen is as good a skater as any blueliner in the game. He also has a rocket shot from the point.
Brett Carson Joni Pitkanen
Manny Legace – Legace is holding down the fort for the Hurricanes as Cam Ward is once again on the sideline, this time with a back problem. Since Ward’s injury, Legace has posted a solid 5-1-1 record while splitting the duties with Justin Peters. Legace picked up his first shutout in two years when he stopped 27 shots against the Atlanta Thrashers on March 7. An all-star with the St. Louis Blues in 2008, Legace has rebounded nicely this season with the Hurricanes after struggling in St. Louis last year.
Justin Peters – His sample size is quite small, but Peters has been great between the pipes for the Hurricanes while splitting time with Legace. Peters, 23, has posted a 5-2 record, 2.42 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in seven games. Peters played very well against the Penguins on March 11, stopping 37 shots to pick up the overtime victory. His success is somewhat surprising as he had a below-.500 record last season with Lowell of the American Hockey League, and spent the prior season in the East Coast Hockey League.
Manny Legace Justin Peters
Tom Kostopoulos - Kostopoulos broke into the NHL with the Penguins during the 2001-02 season, and since then has developed into one of the more effective role players in the league. Kostopoulos makes life difficult on opposing team’s top forwards, ranking third (tied) on Carolina with 149 hits while leading the team with 90 penalty minutes. A top penalty killer, Kostopoulos is having a career year offensively. His eight goals are one shy of tying a career high while his next point will establish a new personal best. He is the only Hurricane to play in all 70 games.
“We’ve been fortunate that (Jamie) McBain has come in and played as well as he has because he moves the puck very, very well and it looks like he’s got a great head on the power play. Him contributing has been critical.” - Carolina head coach Paul Maurice talking to the Hurricanes official team website on the play of Jamie McBain following injuries to Tim Gleason and Alexandre Picard.
"The increase in pain is way beyond what you would expect a person to play with. Unfortunately it’s even beyond what Tim Gleason can play with, because he can play with just about anything." - Maurice against speaking to the Hurricanes official team website about Gleason’s injury.
"If something like that happens, you just have to move on. You have to be able to do that if you're going to play at this level. It was a true test." - Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters talking to Yahoo! Sports about Carolina’s ability to get the job done in overtime against Washington on Thursday after the Capitals tied the game with 9.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
10-9-2 Carolina has posted an above .500 record on the road after beginning the season 0-10-3 away from RBC Center
.667 The Penguins have the third-best winning percentage in the NHL in one-goal games thanks to an impressive 22-6-5 record in such instances