Carolina Hurricanes vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Game Preview 10-28-13

Vincent Pugliese

The Hurricanes return to PNC with a two-game losing streak. The visiting Pittsburgh Penguins are riding a three-game losing streak. Which streak will be broken tonight?

Carolina Hurricanes vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Monday, October 28, 2013 - 7:00 pm EDT
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas (!!!)
Radio - 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: Pensburgh (twitter @Pensburgh)

Hurricanes Record: 4-4-3 (11 pts.)
Penguins Record: 7-4-0 (14 pts.)

Tonight marks the second of four games this season between the Hurricanes and the Penguins. The Canes lost the first game 5-2 in Pittsburgh on October 8; the teams will play again in Raleigh on December 27 and in Pittsburgh on April 1.

While the Hurricanes remain second in the Metropolitan division by the slimmest of margins, they are coming into tonight's game with a two-game losing streak and have suffered a major setback now down two netminders. Cam Ward, starting Thursday against the Minnesota Wild, suffered a lower body injury and was immediately placed on injured reserve with an announced three-to-four week return. Ward underwent an MRI yesterday in Raleigh and there have been no further updates to his condition. Meanwhile, Anton Khudobin has missed five games also due to a lower body injury, suffered in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes on October 13. After returning to the ice yesterday for a very limited workout, his timeframe for return is uncertain. Justin Peters, who started the season with the Charlotte Checkers, is now between the pipes, backed up by his Charlotte backup, Mike Murphy. In order to solidify their position in net, the Checkers in the last week brought back former netminder John Muse and also signed former Blue Jackets goaltender Allen York to professional tryout contracts, then broke news on Saturday that former Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro had also been signed to a tryout.

While the injury carousel is spinning in net, not to be overlooked is the offensive side of the ice, where production has been a concern, especially early in games. The forward corps has been bitten by the injury bug as well. Jeff Skinner, the team's leading scorer, joined Ward on the MRI machine yesterday as he recovers from an upper body injury suffered in Thursday's game, and Radek Dvorak left Friday's game against the Avalanche early and did not skate yesterday. In an effort to account for injuries as well as provide a much-needed offensive kick start, head coach Kirk Muller made several line changes at yesterday's practice. Nathan Gerbe was moved to the top line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, and Jordan Staal received two new linemates in Jiri Tlusty and Elias Lindholm. Patrick Dwyer, who is still listed as day-to-day, skated yesterday with Riley Nash and Tuomo Ruutu. The trio of Brett Sutter, Drayson Bowman, and Kevin Westgarth round out the forward lines.

On defense, Brett Bellemore was placed on IR after suffering an injury against the Wild, which allowed a roster spot to open for the return of veteran and assistant captain Tim Gleason.

Expected line-up for tonight (Hurricanes.com depth chart):

Forwards

Nathan Gerbe

Eric Staal

Alexander Semin

Jiri Tlusty

Jordan Staal

Elias Lindholm

Tuomo Ruutu

Riley Nash

Patrick Dwyer

Drayson Bowman

Brett Sutter

Kevin Westgarth

Jeff Skinner (injured)

Radek Dvorak (injured)

Defensemen

Andrej Sekera

Justin Faulk

Ron Hainsey

Mike Komisarek

Tim Gleason

Ryan Murphy

Jay Harrison (healthy)

Brett Bellemore (IR)

Goaltenders

Justin Peters

Mike Murphy

Official Hurricanes Team Injury Report (convenient link albeit sadly necessary)

Few would have expected the Penguins to arrive in Raleigh with a worse losing streak than the Hurricanes, yet here they are, though still leading the Metro division by virtue of a very hot start. Not known for being offensively challenged, the Penguins have scored only four goals in their last three games, but don't expect that trend to continue. Sidney Crosby leads the league in points with 18 and certainly hasn't been shy about taking it to the Canes, with 30 points in 23 career games. Evgeni Malkin is off to a slow start (by Malkin standards) with 10 points, good enough for third in scoring for the Penguins (behind Chris Kunitz), but still besting the Canes' best scorer (Skinner with nine points). Malkin has a 10-game point streak against the Canes with 28 points in 23 career games.

The Penguins suffered a loss on the blue line Saturday as veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi left with a lower body injury. Scuderi returned to Pittsburgh for evaluation and his condition is unknown.

In net, Marc-Andre Fleury has been solid with a 7-2-0 start, 1.88 GAA, and .926 save percentage. Fleury is 10-6-3 with a 2.69 GAA and one shutout in 20 career games against the Canes. Jeff Zatkoff, who makes his home in Raleigh in the off-season and skated with several Hurricanes players during the off-season, is backing up Fleury due to injuries to Tomas Vokoun, and has not faced the Hurricanes in his career.

The Penguins did not practice yesterday so any changes to their line-up won't be known until after today's morning skate. Here is how they lined up Saturday, with speculation (thanks to Pensburgh) as to how the defensive pairings may operate in Scuderi's absence.

Expected lines:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - Matt D'Agostini
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Chuck Kobasew
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Deryk Engelland

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Robert Bortuzzo

Marc-Andre Fleury
Jeff Zatkoff

Penguins injuries: Forwards James Neal (IR - upper body) and Beau Bennett (IR - lower body), Tomas Vokoun (IR - blood clot), defenseman Rob Scuderi (under evaluation - lower body)

Tonight's Game Promotions:

Hockey for Healthy Teeth - Donate a toothbrush to support Raleigh Rescue Mission and Poe Center for Health Education, enter to win a team-signed hockey stick.

Halloween Mystery Puck - Visit the Kids 'N Community Kiosk outside Section 129 to purchase a puck signed by a Canes player (300 pucks available, purchase limit 2 per person).

For more details, visit the Promotions page on ch.com.

We'll have the game thread ready to roll at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.

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