The Carolina Hurricanes are embarking on a pivotal four-game road trip against some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference...but begin with a game against a team that would be an also-ran if the playoffs started today in the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
For the first time in a long time, the Canes enter play tonight in a playoff spot. With 43 games remaining, that certainly doesn’t carry much weight, but it is important to note simply because of the position they found themselves in less than a month ago.
One addition for the Canes on this road trip is Alexsi Saarela, who was added to the roster after Marcus Kruger was placed on IR with a lower-body injury and Lucas Wallmark was banged up on Tuesday vs. the Capitals. Bill Peters has said he will sit tonight, but if he cracks the lineup on the trip, he will be making his NHL debut.
Here is how the Canes are expected to line up today:
Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Brock McGinn - Derek Ryan - Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Justin Williams
Joakim Nordstrom - Josh Jooris - Phil di Giuseppe
Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce
Haydn Fleury - Justin Faulk
Noah Hanifin - Trevor van Riemsdyk
The Penguins were able to get back into the win column on Tuesday with a 5-1 win in Philadelphia against the Flyers. While they have added some injured players back to their lineup since last Friday’s matchup in Raleigh - specifically Matt Murray in net, and Kris Letang and Justin Schultz on the blueline - they also will be down their only goal-scorer from Friday as Brian Dumoulin suffered a concussion.
The lines from morning skate below feature a few interesting tidbits. Seeing Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel together provides an interesting choice for Bill Peters. While he does not have the benefit of last change, he will have to decide if he wants to try and get his best defensive pairing of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce (as well as the TSA line) out against the dynamic Malkin-Kessel group, which would leave Sidney Crosby with a somewhat better matchup.
The Pens expect to come out as follows:
Dominik Simon - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
Patric Hornqvist - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Carl Hagelin - Jake Guentzel - Daniel Sprong
Tom Kuhnhackl - Riley Sheahan - Ryan Reaves
Matt Hunwick - Kris Letang
Ian Cole - Justin Schultz
Olli Maatta - Jamie Oleksiak