Penguins (36-20-6, 78pts) @ Hurricanes (28-24-9, 65pts)
CAR Home Record: 15-10-3 | PIT Road Record: 16-9-4
Last 10 | PIT 3-5-2 | CAR 3-4-3 |
Season Series: PIT leads 3-0
PIT 2.84 Goals Per Game CAR 2.84
PIT 2.37 Goals Against Per Game CAR 3.00
PIT 17.6% Power Play % CAR 16.9%
PIT 87.4% Penalty Kill % 80.3%
A very important game for both teams tonight. Pittsburgh has lost three straight and 7 of 9 games and will look for an offensive boost from the newly acquired Alexei Kovalev who makes his return to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has scored just 16 goals in their last 9 games.
Kovalev who turned 38 Thursday, has 6 goals in his last 10 games.
“Without Crosby and Malkin and guys like this in your lineup, I welcome the addition of the skill of Alexei Kovalev,” Pens GM Ray Shero said on Thursday. “You can see what we’re missing on the ice with some of these guys, so we’re hoping that in the short term here that he’ll be energized to play.”
Tonight will be the second game for newcomers James Neal and Matt Niskanen.
Kovalev and Neal are likely to play together with Jordan Staal but with how Dan Bylsma handles skilled players, you never know where Kovalev will end up in the lineup as the Penguins hit the ice at 11:30 a.m. for their morning skate. Nothing would surprise me, including Kovalev playing on a line with someone like Craig Adams.
Kovalev to the dismay of many fans, will wear No. 72 not his usual No. 27.
As expected, the Penguins officially recalled Brian Strait from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this morning. Strait, 23, made his NHL debut Feb. 21 against Washington, logging 13:02 minutes of ice time.
Strait is in his second full season with WBS. The defensive defenseman has a plus-16 rating this season to go with his eight points (2G-6A) in 55 games. Last year, Strait recorded a plus-22 rating while chipping in 14 points (2G-12A) in 78 games for WBS.
On the injury front, Dustin Jeffrey is a good possibility to return to the lineup tonight. Paul Martin and Mark Letestu will not play.
For the Carolina Hurricanes, this is a game they have to win at home as they hold just a three point lead for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Carolina is just 7-9-3 in its last 19 games, with several teams gaining ground, including the likes of New Jersey and Toronto.
Like the Penguins, Carolina made a move yesterday to upgrade at the forward position. Carolina traded center Ryan Carter and a fifth-round pick to Florida for winger Cory Stillman, who had 26 points in the 2006 postseason, helping the Hurricanes win the franchise’s only Stanley Cup title.
Stillman, 37, has 7 goals and 16 assists in 44 games this season, but has been extremely effective against the Penguins, collecting 33 points in 21 games versus Pittsburgh since 2003-04.