Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins
December 31, 2014 - 7:00 pm ET
CONSOL Energy Center - Pittsburgh, PA
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas
Radio - 99.9 FM The Fan
SB Nation Rival Blog - Pensburgh
|Division Rank||8th Metro||1st Metro|
|Conference Rank||16th EC||2nd EC|
|Streak||Lost 2||Lost 3|
|Power Play %||17.7%||22.5%|
|Penalty Kill %||84.8%||86.9%|
|ES Goals For %||39.8%||50.6%|
|ES Corsi For %||51.2%||56.7%|
|ES Save Percentage||.914||.930|
|ES Save Percentage||.903||.924|
Stats via NHL.com and War on Ice
- Yes, this is a match-up between the team in first place in the Metro division and the team in last place, but Canes versus Penguins is much more about the rivalries of days gone by and history between the organizations and players, including general managers who each won a Stanley Cup with the opposing team and players who were featured in high-profile trades by those same GMs.
- Tonight's game is the third of four in the season series. The teams split wins in back-to-back home-and-home games over Thanksgiving weekend with the road team prevailing in each.
- Taking a look back to the 4-2 Canes win in Pittsburgh on November 28th, the highlight no doubt was an unbelievable save by Cam Ward on Blake Comeau that made all the 2014 top ten save lists (let's watch that again, shall we?). An honorable mention would go to Sidney Crosby's ten-minute misconduct awarded at the end of the game for mouthing off at the referees. There weren't many lowlights for the Canes, perhaps quick mention of Kris Letang answering Jiri Tlusty just 43 seconds after Tlusty scored the opening goal of the game.
- Looking back to the 3-2 loss in Raleigh on November 29th, the highlight would have to be Nathan Gerbe making his presence known to Simon Depres, then answering Jayson Megna's retaliation with a body slam (let's watch that again, shall we?). The lowlight would have to be John-Michael Liles and Jay Harrison spectating as Robert Bortuzzo waltzed between them for the go-ahead goal.
- The Hurricanes picked up after the Christmas break exactly where they left off, able to score only one goal apiece in losses to the Lightning and Canadiens. For the first time all season, their goals-per-game average has dropped to below two (1.97). Only Buffalo has fewer (1.86) and the gap is narrowing. Through 36 games they have lost twice as many available points (48) as they have earned (24).
- Back in the line-up Monday after missing the first 35 games, Jordan Staal made his presence known with an assist and 60% (15/25) faceoff win rate in 19:01 of ice time. Jordan had a scare at the end of the game after P.K. Subban crashed into his recently-rehabilitated ankle, causing obvious pain at the time, but no damage was done and he returned to practice yesterday. Jiri Tlusty, back after missing seven games, also showed up on the score sheet with an assist.
- Alexander Semin returned to practice yesterday for the first time in over a week, and is close to making a return to the line-up. He traveled to Pittsburgh with the team but will not be in tonight's game. Andrej Nestrasil did not practice or travel. John-Michael Liles also did not travel with the team; he has been placed on IR with an illness. In his place, Ryan Murphy has been recalled from Charlotte and is expected to be in the line-up tonight.
- Cam Ward will get the start in net as confirmed by Bill Peters in his interview after yesterday's practice.
- The Penguins jumped out to an huge early lead in the Metro and Eastern Conference standings, which was fortunate for them since they're now facing some adversity. They have lost their last three games in a row including both games since returning from the Christmas break (to division rival Capitals and Devils).
- There are two reasons for the Penguins recent turn of fortune. First, they have been decimated by illnesses and injuries. Several players have been out of the line-up due to the mumps outbreak, and there are currently TEN players on injured reserve. Three players - Craig Adams, Beau Bennett, and Christain Ehrhoff - practiced yesterday and could be available tonight, more will be known as the day progresses. Goaltender Thomas Greiss returned to practice yesterday after missing four games with the mumps, and is expected to back up Marc-Andre Fleury tonight.
- The second reason is that captain Sidney Crosby is in a slump. After leading the NHL with 23 points (and eight goals) in his first 17 games, he has only scored two goals during his last 15 games. Despite Crosby's decline, he's still in the league's top ten in points and is generating scoring opportunities. Crosby has been lethal against the Canes with 36 points in 28 career games, along with perpetual Canes-killer Evgeni Malkin, who has 29 points in 26 career games. Malkin leads the team with 16 goals, and his 41 points are good enough for fourth place in the league.
Hurricanes (from Monday's game)
Injuries and Scratches: Andrej Nestrasil (IR upper body), John-Michael Liles (IR illness), Alexander Semin (DTD upper body), Zach Boychuk (healthy)
Injuries: *Craig Adams (IR undisclosed), *Beau Bennett (IR lower body), Blake Comeau (IR upper body), Pascal Dupuis (IR blood clots), Patrick Hornqvist (IR lower body), Zach Sill (IR upper body), Scott Wilson (IR), *Christian Ehrhoff (IR lower body), Olli Maatta (IR upper body), Paul Martin (IR undisclosed), Steve Downie (mumps)