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HURRICANES (6-17-5) at PENGUINS (20-9-1)
Last 10: Carolina 4-5-1; Pittsburgh 7-2-1
Season Series: The Hurricanes take on the Penguins for the second of four regular-season meetings. Pittsburgh won the first game, 3-2 in a six-round shootout, on Oct. 14 at RBC Center.
Big Story: The NHL's last-place 'Canes will face the Atlantic Division's first-place Pens in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. However, Carolina is not quite the same club that was swept by Pittsburgh back in May as it is still without All-Star goalie Cam Ward due to injury and also tied the predecessor Hartford Whalers club for the longest winless streak in franchise history, dropping 14 in a row earlier this season. The Hurricanes are also still in search of their first road victory of the season. The Penguins, on the other hand, can grab sole possession of first place in the conference with a win and a Washington Capitals loss on Monday.
Hurricanes: Not much has gone right for Carolina this season, but they do have a reason to think positive after snapping a five-game losing streak on Saturday with a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at RBC Center. Erik Cole tallied a hat trick to help the Canes earn the win. The game against Pittsburgh marks the start of a four-game road trip over a six-day span for the Hurricanes, which concludes Saturday night at Ottawa.
Penguins: Pittsburgh has done a fine job defending its Stanley Cup championship this season, remaining one of the League's most successful clubs. The Pens have won six of their last eight games, which includes a three-game winning streak halted by a 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby sat out that game due to a minor groin injury, but his team still managed to steal a point from the Central Division leaders.
Center Jordan Staal, who tallied the game-tying goal late in the third period on Saturday, was happy with his team’s effort.
"It was a big game for both teams to prove themselves," Staal said. "Us coming into this game, we wanted to prove we could play with this team. We heard a lot about them and wanted to show them our best."
Who’s hot: Center Matt Cullen is in the midst of a five-game scoring streak for Carolina, tallying three goals and two assists over that span. Crosby had seven goals and four assists in his previous three games for Pittsburgh before sitting out for Saturday’s game.
Injury report: Defenseman Joe Corvo and Ward are both on injured reserve with lacerated leg injuries, while right wing Scott Walker is still out with an upper-body injury for the 'Canes. Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma announced Monday afternoon that Crosby will return tonight from the groin injury. Forward Chris Kunitz is still on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and defenseman Alex Goligoski was inactive Saturday for undisclosed reasons for Pittsburgh.
Stat pack: The Hurricanes rank last in the League with an average of 2.29 goals a game, while the Pens have tallied 20 goals over their last five games.
Puck drop: A matchup between the Hurricanes and Penguins is probably about as close to a David vs. Goliath showdown as the NHL has to offer this season. Carolina has steadily spiraled south in the standings and it would definitely be considered a major upset if they were able to snatch a victory from the prolific Pens. However, if Pittsburgh is sans Crosby for a second straight game then the 'Canes could maintain a glimmer of hope.