Who: Carolina Hurricanes (17-12-3, 37 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (14-13-3, 31 points, 7th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: SportsNet Pittsburgh and Bally Sports South for the local feeds, streaming on ESPN+
Pens’ Path Ahead: One more game until the short break, the Pens head to Ottawa on Saturday. Then they’re off for the Christmas holiday until Wednesday 12/27 playing at the Islanders, a few more days off and then an important STL-NYI home back-to-back on 12/30 and 12/31 to close out 2023.
Opponent Track: The Hurricanes are all over the map. They had a disastrous 0-4-0 Western Canadian swing earlier in the month, but since then are 3-0-2. Despite that, they’ve lost two of their last three (the blow softened by losing in OT/SO). But the last game out on Tuesday was a massive 6-3 home win against Vegas that looked promising for Carolina to build upon.
Season Series: Carolina took the first matchup in a 4-2 victory back in November. The Pens play down in Raleigh in a couple weeks on January 13th and then the Hurricanes come back to Pittsburgh on March 26th to close things out between the division rivals.
Hidden Stat: The Penguins are 0-3-2 against Carolina in the last five games against them, yet at PPG Paints they have had some success against the Hurricanes lately. Pittsburgh has points in three-straight home games against Carolina (1-0-2) and have points in nine of their last 13 games against them at PPG Paints Arena (7-4-2), per Pens PR.
Getting to know the Hurricanes
Stefan Noesen - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Michael Bunting - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Andrei Svechnikov - Jack Drury - Teuvo Teravainen
Jaccob Slavin / Brent Burns
Brady Skjei / Brett Pesce
Dmitry Orlov / Jalen Chatfield
Goalies: Pyotr Kochetkov, Yaniv Perets
Possible scratches: Brendan Lemieux, Tony DeAngelo
IR: Frederik Andersen
—Carolina is run differently than most traditional squads, don’t read too much into what lines are where (last game against Vegas, “first liner” Noesen played 11:40, “fourth liner” Teravainen skated for over 16 minutes). They’re a very balanced team that can attack from all angles and sides.
—The sequels are rarely as good as the first film, and that’s also been the case for Tony DeAngelo’s return to Carolina this season. He’s reportedly on the trade block after a series of healthy scratches.
—Bunting (1G+2A last game) has been heating up as of late with the team he signed with as a free agent last summer. Orlov, signed to a big cap hit but only two year term, seemed like a luxury considering the blue line strength and isn’t even averaging 17 minutes a night. It leaves one to wonder what would have happened if Carolina took some of that money (and the $3.4m they paid to keep Andersen) and prioritize Tristan Jarry in the off-season. Considering his health and down year, it would have been a gamble. But put a strong goalie on this team and they would be shooting up the standings, because...
Stopping pucks a real problem in Carolina
Carolina has won their division for the prior three regular seasons but are on the struggle bus right now, and you don’t have to look far to see the glaring problem. They are getting terrible goaltending outputs.
Raanta has been waived and assigned to the minors, the youngster Kochetkov hasn’t grabbed the opportunity. Frederik Andersen is hoping to start a comeback soon from a blood clot issue. Not a very encouraging mix leading many to believe Carolina will have to seek a goalie via trade to add to their talent there.
And now for the Penguins
Projected lines (from yesterday’s practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Valtteri Puustinen
Radim Zohorna - Lars Eller - Drew O’Connor
Jansen Harkins - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter
Marcus Pettersson / Kris Letang
Ryan Graves / Erik Karlsson
John Ludvig / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Alex Nedeljkovic
Potential scratches: P.O. Joseph, Vinnie Hinostroza
IR: Matt Nieto (lower body injury), Bryan Rust (week-to-week injury)
—No changes in lines at practice yesterday, as to be expected considering the success of Monday’s win against Minnesota, and the fact that they basically cleaned out the roster ahead of the holiday freeze, save the yo-yo-ing of Hinostroza from the NHL to AHL and back to NHL movements.
—Carolina has been a tough matchup for Jarry. In the goalie’s career he has only won one out of seven games (1-4-2) with a .904 save% and 3.45 GAA in his career against the Hurricanes.
Hot power plays
Carolina scored three PPG’s in their last game against Vegas, and the Pens’ beleaguered unit has been heating up as of late too.
Special teams will be a strength on strength matchup; both teams have strong penalty klls that are almost identical on the year (81.6% for Pittsburgh, 81.4% for Carolina).
- Erik Karlsson (599 assists) is one helper away from 600 and is primed to become the eighth fastest defenseman in history to reach the mark (at 949 career games currently).
- Evgeni Malkin (482 goals) is one back of tying Sergei Fedorov (483) for the second-most NHL goals scored by a Russian.
- Marcus Pettersson’s two assists on Monday got him to triple-digits with 100 career assists.
- Having recently passed Mark Recchi (1,533 points) for 13th place all-time in NHL scoring, the next name on Sidney Crosby’s list (1,535) is Joe Thornton. Jumbo Joe is in 12th with 1,539 points.