For the first of two times this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins will enter PNC Arena tonight. In a matchup that features two teams who are dominant at home, one would think the Hurricanes may have an edge over the Pens. However, Sidney Crosby and company want to make PNC their second home.
So far this season the Penguins are 19-2-2 at home but just 9-9-3 on the road. The latter record is partially why the Pens sit 3rd in the Metro and not atop it. While Pittsburgh dropped tjree straight last week, this week got off to a wild start thanks to an 8-7 OT thriller versus the Washington Capitals and then a 4-1 win in Montreal Wednesday night. This means the pesky Pens are coming alive and will bring a lot of momentum (and fans) into PNC Arena tonight.
One has to expect that there will be a very good crowd in Raleigh this evening. It is a Friday night, the Hurricanes are hot at home, and we are in to January which is when hockey apparently starts for most Hurricanes fans (we just skip straight from opening night to mid-January somehow right?). That being said, Pens fans will likely largely contribute to what should be close to a full house tonight. It’s no secret Pittsburgh fans travel well and in bunches, just like many other northeastern teams’ fans. Expect there to be a lot of black and yellow inside PNC tonight and many ‘Lets Go Penguins’ chants.
Whenever the Penguins are around that means Jim Rutherford is back in town. He has been very successful since being squeezed out of the Canes’ GM job by the promotion of Ron Francis in Raleigh. Leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup last season by mortgaging parts of their future, JR has become a favorite in the Burgh thanks to pulling the right strings that led to their second Cup in a seven year span.
This is a game the Hurricanes desperately need and the Pens desperately want. The Canes are trying (again) to leapfrog the Flyers to enter a playoff position and the Pens are trying to chase down the Caps and Blue Jackets. Both teams have something serious to play for.
What To Watch For
- Sidney Crosby and Evgini Malkin both lead the Penguins with 50 points each this season but Crosby has played in 6 fewer games than Malkin. Crosby has been a Canes killer during his career scoring 45 points in just 36 games.
- Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray have both split time fairly evenly in the Pittsburgh net this year. If the Pens want to make another deep run they need to figure out which man will be their goaltender going forward. The Hurricanes need to make sure they don’t let either man shine.
- The 3rd best power play unit goes up against the top rated penalty kill tonight. The Penguins have a deadly power play as they do every year, but the Hurricanes have stifled even the best power play units (including Columbus’s #1 ranked unit in both of their games). The special teams battle could easily decide this one.
- Last month the Hurricanes came very close to knocking down the Penguins in Pittsburgh. A 3rd period collapse cost the Canes that game and the Pens won 3-2 in regulation. The Hurricanes want revenge. The Penguins want to takeover PNC Arena. Get ready for a showdown in a pivotal game between these two Metro rivals.