The Carolina Hurricanes are in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins tonight for a game at Mellon Arena. This will be game three out of a current six game road trip.
The Hurricanes have a record so far of 3-1-1 and are coming off a win against Anaheim on Sunday. The Penguins are 4-2-1 and have won two games in a row.
The Canes are expected to mix up their lines a bit from what they were in California over the past weekend. This is the way things will start out-
- Staal, Samsonov, Eaves
- Brind'Amour, Cullen, Whitney
- Sutter, Bayda, LaRose
- Brookbank, LaCouture-(double shift another center)
- Pitkanen, Gleason
- Corvo, Seidenberg
- Babchuk, Wallin, Melichar
This will be a home-coming of sorts for Josef Melichar, who used to play for the Pens in year's past.
While most everyone is assuming that Michael Leighton will be in net tonight, I have yet to see an official statement from Laviolette confirming that. According to an Associated Press article on the Hurricanes home page, Ward will be back in net. Do they know something the rest of the Canes press corps doesn't know, or are they making assumptions?
Coming off victories on the strength of dominant efforts from their second-string goaltenders, Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Ward should be back in net Thursday night when the Penguins host the Hurricanes at Mellon Arena.
As I mentioned in a previous article, this could be a tough call for the head coach. Do you ride the hot goalie, or do you return to your number one and give him some confidence? If you go strictly by the stats so far this year, it's a no-brainer.
- Leighton - record 2-0-0 - GAA 1.92 - SV% .935
- Ward - record 1-1-1 - GAA 3.30 - SV% .891
The Hurricanes leading scorer at this time is Ray Whitney with 6 points. Eric Staal and Nic Wallin are right behind with 5 points each.
Evgeni Malkin leads the Pens with 11 points while Sidney Crosby is next with 9. Pittsburgh is really hurting on the blueline. Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney suffered preseason injuries and will be out for months. Hal Gill is nursing a recent injury and might also miss tonight's contest.
Much is usually made about the potential matchup between the Staal brothers, but the hype is a bit quiet at the moment because Jordan is off to a slow start so far this year with just two assists in seven games played.
Of course it's been well publicized that the Hurricanes traveled this morning to Pittsburgh, instead of flying up the night before like usual. Will it affect their play tonight? Can the team reverse the trend which has seen them relinquish the first goal in four out of the first five games this season?
Start time is at 7:30 and the game will be broadcast by FS Carolinas in HD.
Cory did some more research and had this to add:
• Hal Gill is out ... D is Oprik-Scuderi, Eaton-LeTang, Sydor-Goligoski
With him out, the Pens are dressing only four d-men who have even seen a PK yet this year. Scuderi, Orpik and Eaton play regularly, but Letang has just 7:15 on the PK all season, while Sydor and Goligoski haven't killed penalties at all. So if any of those top 4 go to the box, there will be holes back there.
• Goligoski is second to only Malkin on the team in PP minutes per game (5:54 to Malkin's 6:12) — not bad for a rookie who might not be on the team if Whitney and Gonchar were healthy.
• It's only the second time Zigomanis has faced Carolina — other was Jan. 4, 2007 — he was +1 with a team-high five shots of goal (in 16:23 of ice time). Phoenix won 2-0 behind CuJo's 29 saves.
• In eight career games vs. Carolina, Jordan Staal hasn't scored vs. Eric and the Canes.
• M-A Fleury has played Carolina five times before. He has two great outings (35 out of 36 shots on Oct. 22, 2003 — think it was a tie; and Jan. 2, 2007 shutout — 31 saves). Other three times he hasn't played a full 60 minutes (3/4/06 [the Cole injury game] — three goals allowed on four shots in eight minutes after replacing Sebastian Caron; 10/14/06 — 17 saves on 20 shots in 30 minutes; and 10/5/07 — 22 saves on 26 shots — GAA is six, so h was either pulled after 40 or played the final 40). So feast or famine with Fleury.
• Good article on Staal up on NHL.com: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=388015