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Up next: Eric Staal, Ray Whitney and the Carolina Hurricanes

[SBN Hurricanes blog - Canes Country]

Record:27-31-8 (13th in the East)

Scorers:Jussi Jokinen (27g, 27a), Eric Staal (20g, 32a), Ray Whitney (19g, 30a)

If not for such a terrible start to the season, with a combined 5-17-5 record through the first two months, there's a good chance Carolina would be a certifiable threat right now for a spot in the playoff run.  Unfortunately for the Canes and their fans, the poor start dug a hole way too deep for any team to try and rebound from.  Win streaks have been spotty at best and injuries to Eric Staal, Cam Ward and Tuomo Ruutu were of little help as well.  Despite coming back from a brutal leg laceration on behalf of Rick Nash's skate backn in November, Ward has missed a few more recent games due to back issues.  Can't say it's been the best of seasons for him, but he is expected to resume skating again and will at some point return to the ice for the Canes this season.   As of today, the Canes more or less have to win out the remaining 16 games on the schedule if the hope to play in the postseason.

In other words, it's safe to say the season is over for Carolina.

Tonight the Pens embark on a five-game road trip, the second longest of the season.  Perhaps the most crucial part of the next five games rests on Prudential Center ice in New Jersey.  Here's a quick glance at the sched:

Date Team
3/11 @ Hurricanes
3/12 @ Devils
3/14 @ Lightning
3/17 @ Devils
3/18 @ Bruins

As of today the Pens hold a three-point lead over the Devils, but NJ still has one game in hand.  When you consider how poorly Pittsburgh has played against the Devils this season (0-4) you'd hope for a dramatic flip in luck as both enter into the thick of the playoff race.  That's a big four points potentially up for grabs at The Rock that would no doubt provide a significant boost to the Pens' lead in the Atlantic. 

In two previous instances this season the Pens hit the road for five games: October 30 - November 7 (Record: 1-3-1) and January 9 - 16 (Record: 3-2).  NJ is, without a doubt, the team to beat on this trip.  Twice over I might add.

Puck and thread drop at 7pm.  Join us for the banter.