-Theyre back together again:
-Injuries have forced the Penguins to break up their lines and reunite Chris Kunitz with Evgeni Malkin (along with Jarome Iginla on the right wing). Will Kunitz and his ability to forecheck open things up for Malkin? That's what happened last season during Malkin's MVP campaign. Malkin has had a ton of issues this season in terms of producing at a similar clip this season. One has been the lack of a regular forechecking presence, particularly on the left wing.
-Much has been made of Malkin's lack of production (at least in comparison to last season). It's hardly an original thought to point that out. That said, he needs to be better. Period. Regardless of injuries or linemates, the Penguins need more from Malkin.
-Beau Bennett returns to the lineup on the fourth line. We're not sure what he can provide in that role which a Dustin Jeffrey or Joe Vitale can't Bennett isn't a fourth liner. That role doesn't aid him all that much in terms of being a future top-six winger and he could even be a liabilty in that role.
-Jussi Jokinen will center Pascal Dupuis and Brenden Morrow. This is another intriguing line. Morrow and Jokinen dont' skate like they used to. Can Dupuis handle the forechecking and backchecking duties on this line?
-Jokinen will also be taking Neal's spot on the power play. He's not Neal, but Jokinen has a pretty good shot as he showed with his regulation goal against the Rangers Friday.
-Simon Despres will once again be a healthy scratch as he was against the Rangers Friday. He has hardly been perfect this season. There have been some patches of inconsistent play but considering the circumstances, he offers more in terms of offense than any other defenseman currently available to the team in the absences of Kris Letang and Paul Martin.
-Not that any other team isn't dealing with injuries, but the Hurricane's injuries have been particularly crippling. Having goaltender Cam Ward out due to a knee ailment has been a killer. The Hurricanes don't have a strong No. 2 goaltender like Tomas Vokoun to pick up the slack. Dan Ellis will get the start and he's been a borderline NHLer throughout his career.
-Having defenseman Joni Pitkanen out of the lineup is a killer too. The Hurricanes rely on him so much as he normally plays in excess of 25 minutes a game. He's out due to a broken heel suffered in a race for an icing call.
-We're going to predict an offensively challenging loss for the Penguins to night. That's usually how things work for Pittsburgh teams in PNC-sponsored facilities.
-As is usually the case, plenty of Penguins fans have partaked in the tailgating outside PNC Arena:
-Surprisingly, Justin Peters gets the start in net for the Hurricanes. Carolina coach Kirk Muller told media this morning that Ellis would get the start.
-The Penguins' starters are Pascal Dupuis, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Matt Niskanen and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Sidney Crosby, Simon Despres, Dustin Jeffrey, James Neal and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Hurricanes starters are Zac Dalpe, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk, Tim Gleason and Justin Peters.
-Their scratches are Marc-Andre Bergeron, Patrick Dwyer and Joni Pitkanen.
18:55: Chad LaRose tries to sweep a pass from the left of the cage to Tuomo Ruutu on the right wing. Rutu has a clean look at the cage but Brandon Sutter breaks up the pass.
17:58: Deryk Engelland and Kevin Westgarth, the son-in-law of former Steelers coach Bill Cower, drop the gloves in the Penguins' zone. They mostly wrestle a bunch and land some rabbit punchs. They gravitate to the left wing corner boards, wrestle some more and Engelland falls on top of Westgarth. Not a great fight.
17:31: The Hurricanes get an early power play as Craig Adams is nabbed for slashing the stick out of Drayson Bowman's hands in a race for a puck on the right wing wall of the Penguins' zone. Mark Eaton, Brooks Orpik, Pascal Dupuis and Sutter take the ice.
16:57: Things get evened up as Eric Staal slashes the stick out of Eaton's hands in the neutral zone. We'll have four-on-four for 1:27.
16:38: Another penalty. Skinner gets tripped up in the right wing corner boards of his own zone by Kunitz's stick. Skinner, who has been known to embellish penalties, appeared to go down easily. It's not the first time he's been "tripped" by the Penguins:
-We'll have a four-on-three situations for 1:08. Sutter, Orpik and Cooke take the ice.
15:54: The Hurricanes strike. Off an offensive on faceoff win by Jordan Staal against the man he was traded for, Sutter, Corvo takes a puck at the right point, slides to the center point and chucks a wirster towards the net. It appears to sneak by the glove hand of Fleury and hits twine. Staal and Sutter appeared to be screening Fleury there. Double fire Ray Shero. Staal gets the only assist. We're back to four on four for 57 seconds. Hurricanes 1-0.
15:24: Battling for a puck in the right wing corner of Carolina's zone, Morrow slams Jiri Tlusty to the ice with a shoulder check.
14:37: Play returns to five on five.
14:22: The Penguins tie the game on a ... Robert Bortuzzo goal from in front? Adams wins a race for a loose puck against Skinner on the left wing boards of the Penguin' zone. Dupuis picks it up move up the boards and sneaks a pass to Bortuzzo sneaking up the slot. Alexander Semin, who just signed a five-year $35 million contract, was covering the slot and totally ignored Bortuzzo who looked like Bobby Orrtuzzo on that. Great pass by Dupuis as well. Dupuis and Adams get assists. Hurricanes 1, Penguins 1.
12:23: Bowman whips a pass to Riley Nash to the slot. Nash has a chance but it appears Eaton stripped him of the puck.
11:08: Off a feed by Semin from the left wing corner, Eric Staal whacks a one-timer on net from the slot. Fleury fights it off. Quality chance.
9:05: A wrister by Sutter from the right circle is fought off by Peters.
8:59: In transition, Tlusty pushes the puck into the Penguins zone, uses Niskanen as a screen and lifts a wrister on net. Fleury hugs it against his chest.
8:33: Dalpe launches a wrister from the right wing on a deep angle. Fleury punches it away.
8:13: Morrow lifts a wrister from a bad angle on the right wing. Peters eats it up.
6:19: Stealing a puck at his own blue line, Morrow races up the right wing and puts a wrister over the cage.
6:11: Whoa! Brenden Morrow busting out some fancy moves. Who knew he still had the wheels? After the Hurricanes turn the puck over at their own left point, Jokinen one-touches a backhanded pass to Morrow in the slot. Morrow takes the pass on his backhand, makes a deep cut to his left by Faulk in the slot and lifts a wrister over the blocker of Peters while falling. The puck clinks off the cross bar and goes it. It's Morrow's first goal with the Penguins. What a nifty play off a turnover the offensive zone by Jokinen to set up Morrow. And what a juke by Morrow to create space. Jokinen and Dupuis get assists. Hurricanes 2-1.
5:28: Skinner challenges Bortuzzo one-on-one in the right circle but loses the puck for a moment. Dalpe is trailing on the play, collects the puck and hammers a one-timer on net. Fleury bodies it away.
4:59: Tyler Kennedy snaps off a wrister from the right wing. Corvo goes stick on puck and deflects the puck wide.
4:52: Niskanen chops a slapper from the right point which is whide on the near side.
4:46: Niskanen gets another chance with a slapper form the right point. It hits something on its way to the net and is smothered by Peters.
4:26: We have a wild on our hands. Eric Staal beats Adams on a faceoff in the left circle of the Penguins' zone. Bobby Sanguinetti takes the puck, moves slgihtly to his right. As Bennett challenges, Sanguinetti lofts a wrister at the cage to the far side. It beat Fleury on the glove hand. There were at least three bodies there screenign Fleury who appeared to never identify the puck. Staal gets the only assist. Hurricanes 2, Penguins 2.
3:08: A slapper by Eaton is blocked by former Penguin Tim Brent. Fire Ray Shero.
2:10: A wrister by Dalpe is off the mark.
1:55: Kenney has a slapper blocked by Gleason.
0:56: Iginla sneaks the puck up the right wing and is knocked to the ice by Covor.
0:35: Off a drop pass form Malkin
0:29: Oprik one-touches a pass to Niskanen at the center point. Niskanen hammers a one-timer which hits something in front and deflects wide.
0:08: Faulk launches a wrister from the left point. Fleury gloves it.
0:00: End of period. Hurricanes 2, Penguins 2.
-Both coaches were probably less than pleased with that period. It was a sloppy display of defense by both teams.
-The Kunitz-Malkin-Iginla line was hardly all that spectacular. There just didnt' seem to be a lot of chemstry on display.
-Defensive zone faceoff losses directly led to each goal the Penguins allowed. It's hard to imagine the great Joe Vitale wouldn't offer more on a fourth line role, particularly on a faceoff, in place of Bennett.
-That isn't an insult to Bennett. He's infinitely more talented than Vitale. It's jut that Vitale has a better skill set for that type of role. Having Bennett on your fourth line is like hiring Pablo Picasso paint your garage door.
-The Penguins have an 11-9 lead in shots.
-Orpik leads the game with three.
-Eric Staal, Dalpe and Sanguinetti each lead the Hurricanes with two.
-Orpik leads the game with 8:04 of ice time.
-Corvo leads the Hurricanes with 7:43.
-The Penguins have a 13-12 edge in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Jokinen is 3 for 5 (60 percent).
-Eric Staal is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Eaton, Cooke and Gleason each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-Root Sports has been using this cutaway video of a kid in a Hurricanes jersey for so long, he's probably old enough to rent a car now:
19:38: Skinner lifts a wrister from the left circle on net. Fleury fights it off.
17:39: During a stoppage, Root Sports busts out a graphic of less-than-notable Finnish Penguins and in the process, probably exhausts its reserves of vowels:
-Siren actually wasn't that bad:
15:41: Sneaking up the right wing with some lateral skating, Skinner whips a wrister on net. Fleury punches it out.
15:32: Hustling up the left wing, Kunitz chucks a wrister on net. Peters kicks it out.
14:28: On a slightly disorganized rush up ice, Eric Staal lofts a saucer pass from the left half wall to Tlusty in the left circle. Tlusty's timing is off and he fans on a one-timer attempt.
13:50: Kennedy shuffles a backhander from the left circle on net. Peters holds it out.
12:46: What a gutsy little defensive play by the Penguins. Under pressure from Brent and Tuomo Ruutu behind his won cage, Sutter taps a gentle, little pass to Murray in front of the crease. As Chad LaRose and Ruutu hound him, Murray calmly deals a pass to Niskanen at the left corner. Niskanen then deals a pass to Bennett up the wing to get it out of danger. That took some guts by Sutter to make the inital pass and it took some composure by Murray to deal a calm pass to Niskanen in the corner instead of just hoping to whack it up ice through traffic.
11:11: Jamie McBain lifts a wrister from the right point. It hits off Ignla and bounces right to Eric Staal in the right circle. Staal chops a shot on net. Fleury kicks it out. Semin settles the rebound in the slot and taps a little pass to Staal to the right of the cage. Staal has an open net as Fleury is falling to his left but fails to get a stick on the puck.
10:33: The Penguins get a power play as Nash is called for high sticking Sutter in the right wing corner of the Carolina zone. Jokinen, Kunitz, Malkin, Iginla and Niskanen take the ice.
10:21: Niskanen whacks a one-timer from the left point. Iginla in front and re-directs it on net. Peters holds it out as Kunitz crashes in.
8:54: A puck bounces to Dupuis to the left of the cage. He backhand whacks it on net. Peters holds it out.
8:33: The Penguins' power expires without much of a sustained threat.
7:55: The Penguins attempt their "quick-draw" faceoff play. Sutter wins the draw in the left offensive circle. Cooke is positioned behind him and immediately jabs it on net. Peters fights it off.
6:46: Bortuzzo settles a puck in the right offensive circle and chops a shot on net. Peters steers it away.
6:01: Morrow races for and recovers a dump-in into the left wing corner. He taps it to Jokine in the right corner. Jokinen settles the puck and deals to Dupuis floating in the slot. Dupuis lifts a wrister on net which Peters eats up. There was some impressive chemistry on display there.
5:45: Off a backhanded pass by Morrow from the left corner, Jokinen has a chance from the slot but his shot is sent wide to the left corner after Dalpe poked the shot wide.
5:02: Another power play for the Penguins. Skinner is called for slashing Dupuis on the left wing of the Carlina zone. What was he doing. He sort of whacked his stick wildly at Dupuis twice. Niskanen, Kunitz, Iginla, Bennett and Niskanen take the ice. Using Bennett on the first unit is an interesting twist.
3:30: Off a little give and go with Malkin, Bennett has a chance in tight which Harrison deflects away with a stick.
3:02: The penalty is killed. The Penguins looked pretty stale there.
2:41: Orpik shoves Skinner to the ice behind the Penguins' net.
2:22: After an intense battle for the puck in the left corner, Gleason pumps
1:57: Murray blocks a shot attempt by Staal in the right circle.
0:09: On a mini two-on-one, Semin tries to deal a pass from the left cirlce to Eric Staal in the right circle. Murray slides down and blocks the pass with his stick. Tremendous play.
0:03: McBain bumps a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off. Iginla skates the rebound out of danger.
0:00: End of period. Hurricanes 2, Penguins 2.
-Things settled down quite a bit that period. The defense wasn't quite a sloppy and the offensive chances weren't as high in terms of quality.
-Kunitz-Malkin-Iginla looked flat once again.
-The Penguins' power play looked pretty dreadful. This might be the area of the team where Kris Letang and Paul Martin are missed the most.
-Murray and Nisanen continue to display quite a bit of chemistry.
-Bortuzzo has had a pretty up and down game. He made a brilliant play to score his goal but then screened Fleury on the Sanguinetti goal. If you eliminate the extremes, Bortuzzo has had a solid effort.
-The Penguins have a 19-18 lead in shots.
-Orpik, Eric Staal, Faulk and Skinner each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-Orpik leads the game with 16:20 of ice time.
-Faulk leads the Hurricanes with 15:18.
-The Penguins have a 20-19 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Jokinen is 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Eric Staal is 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Gleason, McBain and Harrison each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-Murray, Eaton, Cooke and Orpik each lead the Penguins with two blocked shots.
19:37: Fending off a stick check from Murray, Skinner snaps off a wrister from the left circle wide on the near side.
19:20: After icing the puck, the Penguins call a timeout to get a breather.
19:16: Off a faceoff win in the right circle by Eric Staal, Semin lifts a wrister from the right point on net. Fleury fights it off wih his shoulder.
18:37: Collecting a puck behind the Carolina net, Malkin tries to fire in a forehand wraparound attempt from the right of the cage.. Peters kicks it out.
18:13: Semin has a chance with a loose puck int he left circle. As he spints and fires, Orpik leans down and blocks it partially. Fleury covers the rebound to freeze play.
18:00: The Hurricanes generate something from behind the cage and take a lead. LaRose shrugs off his former teammate, Sutter, behind the net and deals a pass to Ruutu sneaking up the left wing. Ruutu swats a shot on net as he's knocked to the ice by Engelland. Fleury kicks it out with his left skate. From the slot, Nash is able to collect the rebound and pitches by Fleury's left skate with a backhander. Bortuzzo was sitting right in front of the blue paint in no-man's land while defending Nash. The Penguins just got outworked on that goal. Ruutu and LaRose get assists. Huricanes 3-2.
17:25: Off a neutral zone steal, McBain moves into the offensive zone and booms a slapper from the right wing to the far side.
16:02: Tlusty snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Murray appears to get a stick on the shot and deflects it over the net.
15:44: Semin floats a wrister from the slot. Fleury knocks it dead and covers.
14:34: A one-timer by Bortuzzo from the left circle is blocked by Nash. With Bortuzzo pinching in, that creates a an odd-man rush for the Hurricanes. LaRose collects the rebound and deals a pass up to Bowman who is sprung loose on a mini breakaway. Bowman goes backhand and is denied by Fleury.
12:24: On a three-on-two rush, Semin fakes a slapper from the slot, pulls his stick down then snaps off a wrister which Fleury battles away.
12:13: Taking a pass from Jokinen in the neutral zone, Iginla gets a chacne in the left circle and lifts a wrister over the cage to the far side.
11:49: Ruutu lifts a wrister from the left circle. Fleury swats it away with his glove hand.
11:13: Using a screen, Dupuis chops a slapper from the right circle which is off the mark.
10:44: Faulk, fresh off recovering from a shoulder ailment, is shown on the bench in some discomforta nd being attended to by an athletic trainer.
10:27: Bennett knocks over McBain in the left wing corner of the Penguins' zone to steal the puck. What a forecheck.
10:18: Adams mashes Bowman into the boards in front of the scorers booth with a solid hit.
10:11: Remember how we were bemoaning Vitale not playing instead of Bennett on the fourth line? Forget all of that. Bennett takes a pass from Adams on the right wing. He cuts the net on his backhand and tries to lift a backhander on net. Peters punches it away. The rebound hops up, hits the back of McBain and bounces into the net. Bennett gets credit for the goal. A nice dirty goal from a "fourth-line" player. Adams and Glass get assists. Hurricanes 3, Penguins 3.
9:58: The Penguins get the lead back shortly afterwards. Malkin races up the left wing, taps a pass to Iginla in the slot. Ignla lifts a wrister on net. Peters fights it off and allow a rebound to his right. Malkin jumps all over it and pokes it into the cage. So much for that line not having chemistry. "Let's Go Pens!" chants rain down from the "home" crowd. Iginla gets the only assist. Penguins 4-3.
9:43: Taking a pass from Kunitz in the right circle, Iginla has a month to shoot. He lifts a wrister to the far side which Peters battles away.
8:23: A wrister by Semin is blocked by Murray.
7:09: Malkin lofts a wrister from the left wing. Peters knocks it down and covers.
6:03: Morrow battles Semin for the puck int he left wing corner. That creates a turnover. Dupuis chips it down ice and chases after it to kill some time.
4:25: Jordan Staal whips a wrister from the slot wide on the right side. Dalpe tries to jam in the rebound but Fleury holds it out.
2:33: Malkin collects a puck behind the net and tries to jam in a backhanded attempt from the left of the net. Peters holds it out.
1:34: Jordan Staal lifts a wrister fromt he left circle. Fleury kciks it out. Skinner gets the rebound in the slot and puts a wrister on net. Fleury fights it off.
1:00: As Peters heads to the bench for an extra attacker, Malkin airmails a wrister from the neutral zone wide of the cage.
0:48: Skinner gets away with a check on Cooke away from the puck in the neutral zone.
0:01: Stealing a puck off Faulk at the Carolina blue line, Dupuis chips a uck into the open cage for one of us:
The goal is unassisted. Penguins 5-3.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Hurricanes 3.
-It's been a while the Penguins are champions of the Atlantic Division. It's only the seventh division championship in franchise history. They won the Patrick Division in 1990-91 and 1992-93 and won the Northeast Division in 1993-94, 1995-96 and 1997-98 and also won the Atlantic previously in 2007-08.
-Obviously, a division is never the ultimate goal. And unlike baseball, you don't celebrate division titles with a wild champagne shower in the dressing room. But this is obviously a great step for the Penguins. They have guaranteed themselves one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference with tonight's win. Presumably, a top seed offers an easier road to the Stanley Cup Final.
-This was hardly a perfect game for the Penguins. There were plenty of warts to point out. But it was a pretty entertaining 60 minutes of hockey.
-The best part of this game for the Penguins was the fact that they got production from all over the lineup. A defending Hart Trophy winner and a defenseman who has barely played since the start of spring each got goals. This was a pretty complete effort in that regard for the Penguins.
-From start to finish, the Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-Jarome Iginla game wasn't exactl lights out from start to finish. They didn't display a ton of chemistry in terms of passing. But that line ultimately produced the game-winning goal. It's a start.
-Beau Bennett has proved this blog wrong. We've wondered quite a bit if he could withstand the physical battles of a an NHL season, especially in a condensed meat grinder this season has become as a result of the lockout. He showed what he could do in terms of physical play tonight. Additionally, his willingness to go the net led to a goal and tied the game in the third period.
-That said, we still think Bennett and the team are better served by having him in a top six role, either in the NHL or AHL. If you look at the goal by Carolina's Bobby Sanguinetti, Craig Adams was beat on the faceoff and Sanguinetti scored as Bennett gave chase. If Joe Vitale is in the lineup, he offers a better faceoff option than Adams in that situation.
-The Penguins were still pretty sloppy overall in this game. They were beaten cleanly on the faceoff on Carolina's first two goals and they simply got outworked on the third goal. Throughout the game, they allowed several quality scoring chances to Carolina.
-Pascal Dupuis showed how tuned in he is tonight as he was teamed with Jussi Jokinen and Brenden Morrow. Despite playing on a line with two players still new to the team and the system, he looked like he was still playing with Sidney Crosby. His pass to set up Robert Bortuzzo was pretty sharp. What he is providing this team at the moment is invaluable considering the injury.
-Bortuzzo was so up and down tonight. He scored a nice goal for the Penguins but was directly invovled in two of Carolina's goals.
-Douglas Murray and Matt Niskanen looked so calm and comfortable with one another. The chemisty they've developed in a short amount of time has been impressive.
-Jokinen continued to look like a good fit with ths team. The touch he showed on some of his passes, including the one to set up Brenden Morrow for a goal, was subtle.
-Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't nearly as sharp as he was Friday against the Rangers but that's only because he was at special level in that game when he was stealing goals. He was screened on the first two goals by Carolina tonight. He allowed a bad rebound on the third goal but Bortuzzo was positioned badly on the second-chance shot by Riley Nash. Fleury put his team in a position to win tonight.
-The Hurricanes look like a team which is just defeated by the injuries they have sustained. The Hurricanes didn't look anything like the team which roughed up the Penguins on Feb. 28.
-The Penguins led in shots, 33-28.
-Malkin led the game with six.
-Eric Staal, Zac Dalpe, Bobby Sanguinetti, Justin Faulk, each led the Hurricanes with three.
-Brooks Orpik, who had a solid, clean game, led the game with 24:30.
-Justin Faulk led the Hurricanes with 22:48.
-The Hurricanes led in faceoffs, 35-24 (59 percent).
-Eric Staal was 12 for 15 (80 percent).
-Jordan Staal was 12 for 18 (67 percent).
-Jussi Jokinen was 6 for 12 (50 percent).
-Murray and Orpik each lead the game with four blocked shots.
-Morrow became the 460th player to score a regular season goal for the Penguins.
-Dupuis moved past Kunitz for 36th place on the franchise's career scoring list. Both players have 205 points but Dupuis (93) has more goals than Kunitz (89).
-A scoring change on Bennett's goal gave assists to Craig Adams and Deryk Engelland. That meant Glass did not record his first point of the season.