The Carolina Hurricanes begin their week a little bit late with back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday night. They do so following a week that, thus far, has not seen them buried in the playoff race while idle. Sitting just one point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Canes will try to close out a victorious season series with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the back-to-back, the Hurricanes are slated to send Cam Ward into net this evening, which would likely indicate Scott Darling will man the net in Detroit tomorrow. The recent three game winless streak (0-2-1) for Carolina has been marred by their typical bugaboo, lack of goal-scoring. With just four goals in the three games, the Canes will look to generate more dangerous chances and breathe life into their attack.
As the Canes look to potentially upgrade their roster with the trade deadline approaching, offensive underachievers such as Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, Joakim Nordstrom and even the previously injured Lee Stempniak must really play some of their best hockey going forward to ensure their inclusion in the lineup going forward. It would be reasonable to expect the bottom six forwards to bring a high level of energy, as they are fighting for their roles. If the results remain disappointing, the organization may have to consider not only replacing those players via trade, but even internally from Charlotte if appropriate trades can not be found.
Peters said he wants to add ahead of the deadline, but the team as constructed is capable of making the playoffs.— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) February 23, 2018
(Update: the Canes have recalled Lucas Wallmark for some reason.)
The Hurricanes can, with a win, not only slot back into a playoff spot, but can also secure the first season series win over the Pens since the 2009-10 campaign. In that spirit, here is the projected lineup that head coach Bill Peters will send out at PNC Arena on Friday:
Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Brock McGinn - Victor Rask - Justin Williams
Jeff Skinner - Elias Lindholm - Lee Stempniak
Joakim Nordstrom - Derek Ryan - Phil Di Giuseppe
Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce
Haydn Fleury - Justin Faulk
Noah Hanifin - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Scratches: Klas Dahlbeck (healthy), Josh Jooris (healthy), Lucas Wallmark (healthy)
The Penguins enter tonight’s matchup with the same extended rest that the Hurricanes have enjoyed, having not played since Sunday as well. The Canes are perhaps hoping that the rest has cooled down the defending champs, as the Pens come in with a five-game winning streak and seven-game points streak.
While the Pens have received solid work in net from Matt Murray recently, as well as from backup Tristan Jarry, the extra gear the Pens have found recently can be attributed in great measure to the offense. Since January 5th, the Pens have played 19 times, and in those 19 games were held under three goals only twice, while scoring four or more 12 times.
The Pens are relatively healthy at this point, with only Patric Hornqvist potentially in danger to miss Friday’s game (much to Cam Ward’s disappointment, we’re sure). However, the Pens are in the process of acquiring Derick Brassard from the Senators in a deal that would reportedly send Ian Cole the other way, so the lineup is in flux and we may not know who will be in it until warmups begin. Below is our best guess for the Pens’ lineup:
Dominik Simon - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Jake Guentzel - Riley Sheahan - Phil Kessel
Zachary Aston-Reese - Carter Rowney - Conor Sheary
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Justin Schulz
Chad Ruhwedel (?) - Jamie Oleksiak