The Pittsburgh Penguins (29-10-0, 58 points) have wrapped up a playoff seed and can become the first NHL team to claim a division title with a win against the hapless Hurricanes (16-20-2, 34 points) Tuesday night in Raleigh.
Carolina led the Southeast Division this time last month, but 12 losses in their last 13 games have seen them tumble into 13th place in the East. Injuries to key players such as Cam Ward and Joni Pitkanen have decimated Carolina, who now have a two-point cushion on Florida for last place in the conference.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is dealing with its own rash of injuries. James Neal (concussion) won't accompany the team on their current three-game road trip, joining Sidney Crosby and Paul Martin on the shelf.
Kris Letang has missed five straight but is with the team on this trip, and could make an appearance at some point during the next three contests.
Beau Bennett was recalled from Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate to fill Neal's spot, though he'll likely start on the fourth line. Pittsburgh's morning skate saw line rushes that placed Evgeni Malkin between Jarome Iginla and Chris Kunitz, while former Cane Jussi Jokinen skated between Pascal Dupuis and Brenden Morrow on the second unit.