In tonight’s tilt, the Hurricanes (16-24-7) take on the Pittsburgh Penguins (23-17-4) in the Steel City at the Consol Energy Center. The team flew into town Sunday night after a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. Although we didn’t come away with the “W,” there was a lot of good that came out of that contest. The game was hard-fought and there weren’t any glaring mistakes that seemed to swing the pendulum in favor of the Caps. Jussi Jokinen broke his twenty-five game scoring drought and one Mr. Jeffrey Skinner returned to the ice. Skinny was a bit tentative in the first two periods but by the later shifts of the third, he was starting to look like the Skinner of old.
The Pens are coming off a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. I am trying to erase that score from my brain knowing that three of those goals were scored by Evgeni Malkin in the third period earning him a natural hat trick.
Our hospital ward is still full with Chad LaRose out with an upper-body injury (I have heard alternating reports of head and shoulder) and Jaroslav Spacek recovering from being hit with puck in the face. Jerome Samson continues to feel the after effects of an encounter with Bruins big man, Zdeno Chara and he remains out of the lineup. Brian Boucher and Joni Pitkanen? Yep. Still hurt.
Pens’ captain Sidney Crosby is of course still missing from the Penguins lineup with concussion-like symptoms. Blueliner Kris Letang, also recovering from a concussion, returned to practice today. He was not wearing a “DON’T TOUCH ME!” jersey, but he is not slated to play tonight. Still missing from the lineup is Jordan Staal who is out with a knee injury from a collision with Mike Rupp of the Rangers. Simon Despres is also out for the d-corp.
I mentioned who is out of the game, but who is in the lineup is what is important. The Pens will be showcasing their top line of Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Malkin is eleven points ahead of Neal, his closest competition in the points race, with fifty-one. He has twenty-one goals and a whopping thirty helpers. Neal is atop of the goal scorers with twenty-four and sixteen helpers to his credit. In the last meeting of the teams, the Pens put up fifty-two shots to a paltry eighteen by the Canes. While the shots could come from anyone, I expect to see plenty from this trio.
The Hurricanes’ lines have been switched up with the return of Jeff Skinner, but the top line has been Tlusty / Staal / Ruutu. The Official website has not updated the line combinations to include 53 but the last game he was slotted between Jussi Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Keys to the game:
- The defense needs to continue to be solid. Jay Harrison’s leadership has been invaluable. Justin Faulk has been playing great and learning from Harrison is just going to make him better. It’s no secret why he was invited to the All Star Skills Competition.
- Skinny needs to get his timing back. His last couple of shifts showed he was getting comfortable being back in the action. Now he needs to get hot in scoring.
- Evgeni Malkin. Stop him! If you have ever sat next to me in the RBC Center during a Pittsburgh matchup you would know I tend to yell “DON’T LET GENO TOUCH THE PUCK!” A lot. So listen to me this time guys!
The official site of the Pittsburgh Penguins has some photos of our guys at the morning skate today. Pens Labryrinth is your FanSided site for the Penguins. Puck drops at 7pm, and the game is on 99.9 the Fan and FS Carolinas. Let’s Go Canes!
Have thoughts about the game? Are you relieved that Sally doesn’t have to root against Jordan Staal tonight? (She is.) Leave us a comment! Like us on Facebook at CardiacCane and follow the staff on Twitter: @CardiacCaneFS, @Esbee92, @peacelovepuck @caniac176 and @southerndraw81