Who: Carolina Hurricanes (33-11-4, 70 points, 1st place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (31-12-8, 70 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 1:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Bally Sports South (BSSO) for Carolina locals, NHL Network in America for non-local markets.
Opponent Track: The Hurricanes have gone 2-4-0 over their last six games, a rare losing stretch for a team which boasts the NHL’s third-highest win percentage (.729) as of Saturday. But in their latest contest (Friday), they beat the visiting Predators, 5-3.
The Hurricanes are tied with the Penguins at 70 points apiece; although the Hurricanes still hold three games in hand, whoever wins Sunday’s contest will be (at least temporarily) on top of the Metropolitan Division.
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins won’t play again until Thursday, when they battle the visiting New Jersey Devils before facing their third straight division opponent when the New York Rangers come to town on Saturday.
Hidden Stat: Since January 1, Bryan Rust and Sidney Crosby have each recorded 28 points, trailing only two players (Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau).
Trivia Question: Stats courtesy of Pens PR: As of Saturday, Pittsburgh has four players (Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust) averaging over a point per game so far this season (minimum 10 contests played). Only one team has more players producing at this rate. Can you name the other team?
Season Series: An entire season has eclipsed since the last time the Penguins met the Hurricanes; the two teams last clashed on March 8, 2020, in the second-to-last contest before the COVID-19 pause which cut this regular season abruptly short. In this last contest, the Penguins carried a one-goal lead into the second period before buckling to Carolina as the visiting Hurricanes racked up five unanswered goals in their 6-2 road win.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Stop by Canes Country for all the latest Hurricanes news and analysis.
Friday Game Lines
Tuevo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Andrei Svechnikov
Steven Lorentz - Vincent Trocheck (?) - Martin Necas
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Seth Jarvis
Jaccob Slavin / Anthony DeAngelo
Brady Skjei / Brett Pesce
Brendan Smith / Ian Cole
Goalies: Frederik Andersen (Antti Raanta)
Scratches: Derek Stepan, Ethan Bear
COVID Protocol: none
IR: Jake Gardiner (hip)
—Trocheck, usually the Hurricanes second-line center, was hurt during Carolina’s Friday battle against the Predators and didn’t practice Saturday; head coach Rod Brind’Amour told The News & Observer he was “hopeful” Trocheck would be available against the Penguins Sunday. If not, we might expect Carolina to repeat Friday’s move of moving Jesperi Kotkaniemi up to the second line to fill Trocheck’s role.
—The Hurricanes have leaned heavily on Frederick Andersen this season; they’ve used him in their last three starts, and Andersen has started 34 of the Hurricanes’ 48 games. Given the standings implications of this contest, expectations are for Carolina to lean on Andersen rather than backup Antti Raanta.
And now for the Pens..
Wednesday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Jeff Carter
Brock McGinn - Evan Rodrigues - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Radim Zohorna
COVID Protocol: none
IR: Drew O’Connor (practicing), Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Louis Domingue, Teddy Blueger (week-to-week, broken jaw)
—The Penguins kept their lineup unchanged from Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs during Saturday’s brief practice.
—After Saturday’s practice, head coach Mike Sullivan spoke to the media about the Hurricanes matchup. Sullivan, from NHL.com:
“A lot has changed in the world, a lot has changed in the world of hockey. I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed, is that the Carolina Hurricanes are a really good hockey team. They were really good then, and they’re really good now, so we know we got a big challenge ahead of us.”
“These guys are really, really good players. They’re some of the better players in the league, and their games are evolving. I think those are the reasons why they’ve had success. They’ve got a very good team game, and they have a balanced game. I think that’s a that’s a pretty good recipe for success.”
—Brock McGinn will be reunited with his former teammates for the first time since Pittsburgh picked him up in 2021 free agency. In six seasons with the Hurricanes, McGinn recorded 106 points in 345 regular-season games and highlighted his Carolina career with a Game 7 overtime goal against the host Washington Capitals in 2019.
McGinn on the Hurricanes’ system, as reported by Trib Live:
“They put a lot of pressure on other teams to make mistakes then they capitalize. Just the work ethic in that dressing room is good, and I think (head coach Rod Brind’amour) has them all working at a high pace.”
Milestone and streak watch
- Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs snapped a couple Penguins point streaks, leaving just Malkin with a fledgling two-game streak.
- Malkin’s next game-winning goal (74) will earn him sole second place among all Penguins scorers; Crosby’s (73) would tie him with Malkin and Mario Lemieux for second.
Trivia answer: The only NHL team with more point-per-game players than the Penguins is the Colorado Avalanche (Nazem Kadri, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen.)