Good afternoon from CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens will finish their season series against the Carolina Hurricanes in another divisional showdown.
The Pens continue their 9-game Metro Division stretch. They are currently 4-1 on the swing. Pittsburgh has won 11 of its last 15 divisional games, and is 13-3-2 in its last 18 home games.
The Hurricanes still have a fighting chance to make the playoffs. They have 75 points, which is 5 behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final postseason spot. Although it is a steep hill to climb, any glimmer of hope will certainly motivate Carolina. And tonight’s is a must-win. MORNING SKATE DEETS
The Pens held an optional skate. Those who did not skate were Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Mike Sullivan.
Hagelin, who was given a maintenance day and didn’t practice Wednesday, was back on the ice. He is all good to go for tonight’s game.
Hagelin was asked by a reporter if he feels very well maintained after the day off.
“I do,” Hagelin said. “I should have a lot of energy tonight.”
Sullivan informed the media that forward Scott Wilson’s lower-body injury will require surgery.
“There isn’t a timeframe yet, but once his swelling decreases we’ll have more definitive information,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to be longer-term and requires surgery.”
Forward Beau Bennett (upper-body, 22 games missed) and defenseman Ben Lovejoy (upper-body, 12) are not ready to rejoin the lineup.PROJECTED LINES
Even though the Pens didn’t do line rushes, here are the team’s unofficial projected line combinations.
(Pouliot-Lovejoy)MURRAY IN NET
Goaltender Matt Murray will make his 7th start of the season tonight. He made his NHL debut against Carolina on Dec. 19.
“We believe strongly that Matt gives us a good chance to win as well,” Sullivan said. “He’s played extremely well for us when he’s been in there. He’s a really good goalie.”
Murray’s last start came March 6 at New Jersey. He made 17 saves in a 6-1 victory that afternoon. Murray has been utilizing his practice time to stay sharp.
“I’m always excited to play,” Murray said. “I went through the same kind of thing last year (splitting time). I know how to handle it. I use practices as a way to stay sharp.”TRAP GAME
The Hurricanes may be on the outside looking in at this year’s postseason, but the Pens know they can’t take any opponent lightly. After all, the Calgary Flames came into Pittsburgh and netted 4-2 victory despite being eliminated from the postseason.
“Our players are well aware of the importance of this game,” Sullivan said. “When you look around the league every night there is evidence that if you’re not ready to play, regardless of who the opponent is, you’re going to leave yourself vulnerable to get beat.”