NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, April 1st
(All times Eastern)
Carolina Hurricanes (32-32-11) at Pittsburgh Penguins (48-22-5), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to win back-to-back
division titles for the first time in 20 years on Tuesday night when they host
the Carolina Hurricanes.
With 101 points, the Penguins have already clinched their eighth straight trip
to the postseason and have a 13-point lead over the second-place New York
Rangers in the brand-new Metropolitan Division.
With just six games left to the Penguins' seven, the Rangers are already
mathematically eliminated from catching Pittsburgh, but the third-place
Philadelphia Flyers have a game in hand over the Pens and are 15 points back
of the top spot.
Pittsburgh, though, can clinch the division with a victory over Carolina or a
regulation loss by Philadelphia tonight versus the St. Louis Blues. The
Penguins can also lock up the division crown with a point and a loss by
Philadelphia in overtime or a shootout.
The Penguins have won consecutive division titles just once before in
franchise history, doing so in 1992-93 and '93-94. The won the Atlantic
Division last year during the strike-shortened campaign before shifting to the
Metropolitan Division following realignment.
The Pens have followed up a three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins,
besting the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Sunday. That pushed Pittsburgh past the
100-point mark for the sixth time in the past eight seasons, including last
year's shortened campaign when the Pens compiled 72 points in 48 games.
Coincidentally, the lone time that the Penguins did not reach the 100-point
mark was their Stanley Cup-winning 2008-09 season, when they finished with 99
Sidney Crosby continued his MVP season with two goals in Sunday's win. He
leads the NHL with 63 assists and 99 points and is tied for fourth in the
league with 36 goals.
James Neal and Lee Stempniak also scored and Marc-Andre Fleury came up with 25
"(The Blackhawks) put a lot of pressure on us and I thought we were able to
handle it well," said Crosby. "They started to take a few more risks later on
and we were able to capitalize."
The Penguins will try to sweep their four-game season series with the
Hurricanes and have won five straight and eight of the previous nine meetings
Carolina has lost six straight in Pittsburgh, where it has not won since March
The Hurricanes are seven points back of a wild card spot with seven games to
play, having lost three of four and six of their last nine games.
Carolina was bested 2-1 in a shootout by the Ottawa Senators last night, with
Ales Hemsky scoring the lone goal of the tiebreaker.
Jeff Skinner scored in his fourth straight game and Cam Ward made 28 saves in
defeat. The lone goal Ward allowed in regulation came on a deflection that was
reviewed to see if Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad had kicked the puck in just 1:41
into the game.
"As much as you like to take goals back, you can't," said Ward. "I thought it
probably could have gone either way on the video replay, but from what I
understand he didn't have a kicking motion. You have to look at it as a lucky
break on their side."
Skinner scored just over two minutes later to tie the game, potting his 30th
tally of the season. That is just one shy of the career-high 31 goals he
scored as a rookie in 2010-11.
Carolina lost a pair of forwards to injury last night, with Jiri Tlusty and
Andrei Loktionov suffering upper-body ailments.
04/01 10:52:51 ET