29-33-8 (66 pts.)
5th Southeast, 14th East
42-24-5 (89 pts.)
1st Atlantic, 2nd East
October 14, 2009. RBC Center
Pens Win 3-2 (OT)
Goals: Mike Rupp, Evgeni Malkin
December 7, 2009. Mellon Arena
Hurricanes Win 3-2
Goals: Mike Rupp, Sidney Crosby
March 11, 2010. RBC Center
Hurricanes Win 4-3 (OT)
Goals: Jordan Staal, Bill Guerin, Matt Cooke
Since beating the Penguins 4-3 in overtime earlier this month, the Canes have dropped two of three and are all but out of the playoff race. Even at eight points out of eighth place with twelve games remaining, the Hurricanes are often a hard out. For the Penguins, its all about staying ahead of New Jersey heading into the playoffs, who trail the Pens by one point but have one game in hand.
It’ll be up to the Penguins to play a complete game for 60 minutes to beat Carolina like they beat Boston on Thursday. While playing the lowest-scoring team in the East helped land the Pens their first shutout of the season, the 17 shots Boston registered on Fleury were due to a sound defensive effort.
Unlike Boston, Carolina has excellent scoring depth despite their record. Ray Whitney has four goals and an assist in three games against Pittsburgh this season.
The Boston game was important for the Penguins, less in the sense that Matt Cooke emerged with head intact and more for the fact that the Pens rebounded from a sour loss to the Devils to soundly beat an inferior team. The Hurricanes are another such team, and one Pittsburgh should want to beat heading down the stretch to keep a neck above the Devils.
The Penguins are 6-2-2 in their last ten games but went 2-2-1 on the recent five-game road trip. The Pens have a home record of 21-10-3 this season. With eleven games remaining and only four of them on the road, the Pens can look to the friendly confines of the Mellon to help spark the winning streak that
all teams like to carry into the postseason.
In Wednesday’s game at New Jersey, Tyler Kennedy was a minus-3 centering the third line. On Thursday, he scored the game-winning goal playing on a wing with Jordan Staal.
Rupp and Ponikarovsky, the Pens other scorers against Boston, were both a minus-1 on Wednesday against New Jersey.
With Malkin out of the lineup, and coming off another bad loss to New Jersey, the Penguins’ role players shook off the loss to carry the team. Mike Rupp has two goals in three games against Carolina this season.
Carolina is always a threat to score, and all three matchups this season have been one-goal decisions. A Penguins victory may come down to getting another goal from a role-player.
Carolina has reeled with injury problems all year and things won’t get better on Saturday. Goalie Cam Ward remains sidelined with back problems, though rookie Justin Peters performed admirably in his first game against the Penguins with 37 saves and a win. Top defenseman Tim Gleason is out with a broken foot and defenseman Alexandre Picard is on the shelf with a hand injury.
The Penguins expect to return Evgeni Malkin to the lineup (bone bruise in foot) but his status will not be known until about 90 minutes before game time when he is expected to test his injured foot. We will update the lineup about an hour before game time.
Penguins Tentative Lineup
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Ponikarovsky – Malkin – Fedotenko
Cooke – Staal – Guerin
Rupp – Adams – Kennedy
Orpik – Letang
Eaton – Gonchar
Goligoski – Leopold