Game Analysis: Penguins At Hurricanes

Carolina’s top line dominated again, registering eight points and outclassing the Penguins’ first line en route to a 4-1 in at PNC Arena.

The Hurricanes got four players back in the lineup Thursday against Pittsburgh, and the difference was noticeable. Jeff Skinner scored in his first game back from a concussion, and Jiri Tlusty stayed red hot with two more goals to help lead Carolina to a 4-1 win at home over Pittsburgh. The Canes are now 10-8-1, good for 21 points and first place in the Southeast Division. Here's a closer look at Thursday's win.

Three Observations

1. Jay Harrison capped the night off with an exclamation point by decisively winning a brief bout with Robert Bortuzzo in the game's final two minutes. Despite the addition of Kevin Westgarth prior to the season, Carolina is in the bottom six of the league in fighting majors with six (two each for Harrison, Westgarth and Tim Gleason). Team toughness has not been an issue, but it's good to know the brawn is there if needed.

2. Cam Ward impressed again Thursday, but it definitely helped that he had a healthier lineup in front of him. Both Gleason and Jamie McBain helped Carolina’s efforts in their own end, and Ward was good when he needed to be in stopping 26 shots for his seventh win of the season. For the first time this season, Ward has had three straight games with a .920 or better save percentage. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come.

3. The much anticipated Brandon Sutter/Jordan Staal storyline didn't generate much actual action on the ice. Neither player registered a point but both played in all situations. While Staal has moved into 20-plus minutes a night territory since joining the Hurricanes, Sutter is actually seeing less ice in Pittsburgh than he did in Carolina and played just 14:49 Thursday even with Evgeni Malkin out with injury. It's a rough situation for Sutter, who has entered the territory Staal wanted to escape, but Sutter doesn't have the offensive numbers to force Pittsburgh's hand down the road. As of right now, this deal looks like Carolina received a 1B center, while the Pens got a No. 3 pivot and two prospects.

Number To Know

4 — games this season with more than one goal for Tlusty, tied for the most in the NHL with San Jose’s Patrick Marleau (who opened the year with four two-goals games). Tlusty’s nine goals (all scored in the past 10 games) rank tied for 15th in the NHL and give Carolina three players tied for 22nd or better in the league in goals scored. Eric Staal, who scored late in the first to tie the game at 1, has a team-high 10 (T-9th), and Skinner registered his eighth goal in just 14 games.

Plus

Eric Staal — Tlusty had the two goals and Semin the niftier assists, but this night belonged to the elder Staal. Not only did Staal lead his line to an eight-point night, but the trio went head to head with Sidney Crosby on nearly half of the Penguins star’s even-strength minutes and scored all three of their goals against him. Crosby came away with one assist and one shot, while Staal & Co. grabbed two points. The only place Crosby could claim victory was in the faceoff circle, where he was close to unbeatable.

Minus

Chad LaRose — LaRose continues to get top six minutes without the results. He had at least two prime scoring chances Thursday and didn't finish either. A disjointed line change led to Skinner’s goal assisted by Patrick Dwyer — the guy LaRose has replaced on Jordan Staal’s right wing. The Jokinen and LaRose experiments in the top six have not worked, and as long as Dwyer and Tlusty can help generate goals on those two lines there is no reason to mess with them.

* * *

The Hurricanes sent Zac Dalpe back to Charlotte of the AHL Friday. He will be in the lineup tonight when the Checkers face the Admirals in Norfolk. Here's the release from the team.

‘CANES REASSIGN ZAC DALPE TO CHARLOTTE
Forward played one game during most recent NHL recall

RALEIGH, NC – Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has reassigned forward Zac Dalpe to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL). Dalpe will travel to Norfolk, VA, for the Checkers’ game tonight at The Scope against the Admirals.

Dalpe, 23, has earned two assists in seven NHL games this season with Carolina. The Paris, Ont., native ranks second among Checkers skaters this season in goals (18) and points (36) in 45 games on the AHL level, and leads the team in plus/minus (+17). Dalpe (6’1", 190 lbs.) was second by the Hurricanes in the second-round (45th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

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