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Game Preview: Penguins vs. Hurricanes

The Canes have a big Metro matchup this evening.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough shootout loss to St. Louis, the Carolina Hurricanes bounced back with a 6-3 win over Anaheim Thursday night.

The Canes have scored six goals in three of four games in January and look to keep that momentum going against a Pittsburgh team that has been stingy on defense this season.

Despite being tied for fifth in the Metropolitan Division, the Penguins are just six points behind the second-place Hurricanes. Needless to say, this divisional matchup is important for both squads.

Both teams are playing some good hockey right now. The Canes have earned points in 13 of the last 14 games, while the Pens have points in nine of the last 11 games.

Pittsburgh’s defense has performed well this season. The Penguins have allowed the fourth-fewest goals in the NHL, and their team save percentage ranks as the fourth-best in the league.

Pittsburgh’s newcomer on the blue line, Erik Karlsson, has sparked the offense. Karlsson has points in five straight games, the longest active points streak for a defenseman. He has tallied one goal and five assists over that period.

Sidney Crosby is still doing Sidney Crosby things this season. The Penguins’ captain has 24 goals to lead the team, and has done well against the Hurricanes this season.

In the two previous matchups, Crosby has three goals, not including the shootout winner in the December 21 game. Crosby’s 15 road goals are the second-most in the NHL, so as always, keep an eye on #87 tonight.

Crosby and Jake Guentzel are doing what stars are supposed to do. Since December 12, these two each have a team-leading 16 points.

Reilly Smith will not be in the lineup tonight with an upper-body injury.

Former Hurricanes goalie Alex Nedeljkovic has found success in his first season with Pittsburgh after a turbulent couple of seasons with Detroit. He has started the most games for Pittsburgh since the beginning of December.

Nedeljkovic is 8-3-2 this season with a 2.66 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

However, he was yanked in Thursday’s game versus Vancouver, so it will likely be Tristan Jarry between the pipes tonight. Jarry has carried the workload for the Penguins this season, going 11-12-3 with a 2.56 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.

For the Canes, the biggest news is goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov. He took a hit to the head in Thursday’s game and is now in the concussion protocol. Yaniv Perets was recalled from Norfolk.

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

And that is what Antti Raanta has in front of him tonight.

With Kochetkov and Frederik Andersen out indefinitely, this is Raanta’s team. Since his demotion and recall back to the team, Raanta is 2-0-1.

He played great last week against St. Louis, and it is important to note that one of Raanta’s best games this season came in the 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh in November.

And, of course, Raanta’s record at PNC Arena should boost his confidence amid this long home stand. Father Finn is 27-3-3 over the last three seasons at PNC Arena.

What an amazing story it would be for Raanta to bounce back from the demotion to the minors to lead this team and continue this stretch of great hockey.

The team and the fans are behind him. It’s up to Raanta now to step up and seize the moment.

The Pittsburgh defensive game plan’s focus must be the Carolina power play. The Canes have scored a power-play goal in eight consecutive games and are 17 for 33 since December 19.

The Penguins’ penalty kill ranks just behind the Hurricanes at 10th in the NHL. However, the units have struggled recently. Per Walt Ruff, since December 1, the Pittsburgh penalty kill is 17th in the league with a 77.8 kill percentage.

The December 19 victory over Las Vegas was Andrei Svechnikov’s return to the lineup. Both his and Sebastian Aho’s points streaks were broken last week in the shootout loss to St. Louis, but each player returned to the scoresheet on Thursday.

Even with the recent firepower from Svechnikov, Aho, and Seth Jarvis, the Canes had balanced scoring against Anaheim. Carolina will need a four-line effort tonight versus Pittsburgh.

Outside of the goaltenders, the only lineup change may be Martin Necas. He has missed three games since sustaining an injury in practice last week. Per the Hurricanes, head coach Rod Brind’Amour said, “It is up to him” if Necas plays tonight.

Check out Canes Country later today for more updates on starting lineups.

Here’s how to check out the action:

  • Time: 7:00 PM ET
  • Location: PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC
  • TV: Bally Sports South with Mike Maniscalco, play-by-play; Tripp Tracy, color analyst; Hanna Yates, in-game reporter; Shane Willis, analyst.
  • Radio: 99.9 The Fan
  • Line: ML: CAR -155; PL: CAR -1.5 +160