NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, April 9th
(All times Eastern)
Pittsburgh Penguins (29-10-0) at Carolina Hurricanes (16-20-2), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't have to break a sweat to
secure their seventh straight trip to the playoffs. Now, the Eastern
Conference leaders will try to move closer to the Atlantic Division title when
they visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh last played on Friday when it beat the visiting New York Rangers in
a shootout to salvage the finale of a home-and-home series. The Penguins then
became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff spot after New
Jersey lost an overtime decision to Buffalo on Sunday.
With the playoff spot secured it shouldn't be too long before Pittsburgh is
wrapping up its first division title since 2007-08. The Pens are 16 points
ahead of the Rangers and Islanders for the division lead with nine games left.
Pittsburgh is also three points ahead of Montreal for the top spot in the
East, but the Canadiens, who play Washington on Tuesday, have a game in hand
over the Pens.
The Rangers slammed the Penguins by a 6-1 count in New York on Wednesday, but
Pittsburgh answered with Friday's 2-1 decision in the Steel City. It was the
Pens' first win since having a 15-game win streak halted in their final game
Jussi Jokinen scored the lone goal in the shootout to help the Pens edge the
Rangers at CONSOL Energy Center. Jokinen beat Henrik Lundqvist with a
trademark wrister while skating from right to left across the slot in the
first round, and though two more of his new teammates failed to score, Marc-
Andre Fleury turned away all three New York chances.
"I think that's my No. 1 move," Jokinen said. "I've had lots of shootouts in
my career but that's the first time against Lundqvist. I just decided to try
that one and I got off a pretty good shot."
Jokinen also provided the sole regulation tally for the Penguins in his first
game with the club. The Finnish forward was acquired from Carolina on
Wednesday, joining Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray as recent
Penguins' trade acquisitions.
Fleury ended up 34 saves for Pittsburgh, which is kicking off a three-game
road trip tonight. The Penguins are 13-5-0 as the visiting team this season.
The Penguins, who are still without forward Sidney Crosby and defensemen Kris
Letang and Paul Martin, saw winger James Neal join the ranks of the injured on
Friday. Neal suffered a concussion after taking an elbow to the head from
Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto and will be sidelined indefinitely.
The group of Crosby, Neal, Letang, and Martin represents four of Pittsburgh's
top seven scorers this season.
Carolina, meanwhile, is running out of time to prove itself playoff worth.
With 10 games left, the Hurricanes are tied for 13th in the East and are eight
points out of a postseason spot.
Contributing to Carolina's grim playoff status is the club's current five-game
losing streak. All five losses have come in regulation, giving the Hurricanes
a 1-11-1 record over their last 13 games.
The 'Canes were dealt a 6-2 loss Monday evening in Boston. The Bruins scored
three times in the first and led 5-0 after 40 minutes before cruising to
victory in the third.
Patrick Dwyer and Drayson Bowman each scored for the Hurricanes, who saw
starting goaltender Justin Peters pulled eight minutes in after giving up two
goals on four shots. Dan Ellis gave up four goals on 32 shots the rest of the
"We have to be better in sticking with plays," said Carolina forward Jeff
Skinner. "Things just haven't gone our way the past two games because we're
getting a lot of shots on net, but not getting it in."
The Hurricanes are 0-7-0 at home since picking up their last win at PNC Arena
against New Jersey on March 9. Carolina is just 7-12-0 as the host this
Carolina has won the only meeting with the Penguins in 2013, however, posting
a 4-1 win over a visiting Pittsburgh club on Feb. 28. The clubs have split the
last six encounters, but the Pens still have six wins over the last nine
Pittsburgh has lost three of its last four games in Raleigh.
04/09 10:48:19 ET