Who: Carolina Hurricanes (41-12-5, 87 points, 1st place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (35-15-9, 79 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 the Carolina area, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Heading into Sunday, the Hurricanes are tied with the Avalanche for the NHL lead with 87 points, and they’ve been all-but unstoppable as of late. Since February 16, they’ve registered just one regulation loss (a 4-0 shutout in Washington) and have recorded a 9-1-1 record over their last 11 games.
Pens Path Ahead: Five of the Penguins’ next six contests are on the road, with games in Nashville, St. Louis, Arizona, Buffalo and New York on the horizon.
Hidden Stat: The Hurricanes are 11-5-2 in pairs of back-to-back games, and 5-3-1 in the second half.
Season Series: The Hurricanes claimed victory in both prior battles with the Penguins, both in Pittsburgh (a 4-3 win on February 20, saved from going into overtime only thanks to Evan Rodrigues’ power-play goal with just over one minute left in regulation) and in Carolina (a 3-2 overtime win on March 4, when the Penguins blew a two-goal lead.)
The February 20 victory, coincidentally, was also part of a back-to-back Pennsylvanian set: the next day, the Hurricanes claimed a 4-3 OT victory over the Flyers in Philadelphia.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Check out Canes Country for the latest in Hurricanes analysis.
(Note: Does not include stats from Saturday’s game)
—The Hurricanes’ top two scorers are split between the one-two punch of their top lines, with Sebastian Aho (25 goals, 34 assists) centering the first and Andrei Svechnikov (23 goals, 28 assists) flanking the second.
Saturday Game Lines
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Martin Necas
Andrei Svecnhnikov - Vincent Trocheck - Jordan Martinook
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Steven Lorentz - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Derek Stepan
Jaccob Slavin / Ethan Bear
Brady Skjei / Brett Pesce
Ian Cole / Jalen Chatfield
Goalies: Antti Raanta? (Freddie Andersen faced the Flyers in yesterday’s matinee)
Scratches: Brendan Smith, Seth Jarvis (he was a game-time decision Saturday, could swap in for Derek Stepan on fourth line)
IR: Tony DeAngelo, Jake Gardiner
—After missing two games due to injury, Freddie Andersen made a successful return against the Flyers by making 28 saves in the Hurricanes’ 3-1 Saturday matinee win.
Carolina’s goaltending depth has them primed for back-to-backs
This marks the Hurricanes’ third game in four days, and they’ve won the first two. Their victory over the Philadelphia Flyers was only barely decided in regulation— Jordan Martinook scored in the last four minutes of the third period to break a tie— but their victory on Thursday was one to remember. In a battle of the two top teams in the League, the Hurricanes shut out the powerful Colorado Avalanche, 2-0.
What’s more, they did it with their backup goalie, Antti Raanta.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour said that was exactly what the Hurricanes were going for when they acquired Andersen and Raanta as free agents during the 2021 offseason:
That’s why we went out and did what we did this summer. It was specifically for this kind of situation. We all felt that Raanta had that kind of game and we see that he is able to do that. We all know how important goaltending is and it’s nice to have two guys that we can count on.
Raanta has gone 6-1-1 in his last eight decisions, and claimed wins in his past three starts. Raanta on continuing the hot streak:
Sometimes it just feels like you see the puck really well. It feels like whenever the shot comes, you just see the shot and just go down and follow the puck till it hits you and let it go from there. I think everything comes from the confidence and feeling good about your own game. It’s tough to explain, but sometimes you get those hot streaks where it feels like everything is going your way and the bounces are going in your favor.
With Andersen having started 24 hours ago, it seems likely Raanta will be the one facing down the Penguins. If he is tapped, he will have been chosen to start in all three games against the Penguins this season.
And now for the Pens..
Per Penguins PR, starting goaltender and injury updates will be released at 11am Sunday.
Saturday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Evan Rodrigues
Kasperi Kapanen - Jeff Carter - Radim Zohorna?
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Zach Aston-Reese
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mark Friedman / Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith?
Scratches: Dominik Simon?
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body )
—The defensive pairings in an interesting flux— Mark Friedman would be the normal expected scratch, but his play has been strong as of late. On Friday, with Dumoulin out due to (non-COVID) illness, the Penguins tested out some unusual combinations against the Golden Knights— we saw Matheson bumped up to play with Letang, and Friedman skating with Ruhwedel pairings.
With Dumoulin back, will Friedman once again be bumped from the lineup? Or will it be Pettersson shuffled to the bench?
—Valtteri Puustinen skated on the third line during Saturday’s practice, but was re-assigned to the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Penguins the same afternoon. Radim Zohorna was recalled in his place. Will Zohorna or Simon be taking that spot on the third line?
—After a scratch against the Golden Knights, Kasperi Kapanen rejoined the third line for Saturday’s practice— and if he skates in Sunday’s game, he’ll be fighting to keep his roster spot.
—Brock McGinn is out with an upper body injury. You could see what looked like a cast on his arm in the post-game video after the Penguins’ Friday night win.
—Fun fact, per Pens PR: With 17 goals, Evan Rodrigues has the fourth-most tallies by any undrafted player in the NHL so far this season (top three: Jonathan Marchessault, 24; Mats Zuccarello, 19; Tanner Jeannot, 18.)
Milestone and streak watch
- Sidney Crosby is one assist away from matching Niklas Lidstrom for 22nd in NHL history.
- Crosby is also one goal away from the 14th 20-goal season of his NHL career.
- If Kasperi Kapanen skates, it will mark his 300th NHL game (and 98th with the Penguins.)
- Jeff Carter has points in back-to-back games (1-2—3) and could mark his third three-game streak of the season.
- Evgeni Malkin is two assists shy of tying Sergei Fedorov (696) for the most assists by a Russian player.
- Jake Guentzel has points in five straight games (3-4—7); Sidney Crosby has points in eight straight (5-6—11).