-Greetings on another wonderful spring day in Pittsburgh. It's in the mid 70s, a tad humid and sunny as all heck. All kinds of stuff is blooming:
-The Penguins wrap up their regular season tonight with another mostly meaningless game against the Hurricanes. Once again, the biggest thing they can gain is not getting anyone injured.
-Paul Martin and James Neal each return to the lineup after recovering from injuries. They certainly can benefit from shaking off some rust heading into the postseason.
-It'll be interesting to see how Dan Bylsma shapes his lineup tonight with a few more healthy bodies returning. Will Simon Despres or Deryk Engelland get in the lineup? Will Jarome Iginla play the left wing with Evgeni Malkin at center and Neal on the right wing? Will Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass or Tyler Kennedy man the wings on the fourth line?
-Glass, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Craig Adams and Brandon Sutter should appear in their 48th game of the season. They will be the only players on the roster to play in every game. We asked a selection of players which was more impressive - 48 games in a condensed schedule or 82 games in a spread-out schedule. Look for that on the blog on Monday.
-Marc-Andre Fleury will start a day after the birth of his daughter. Sidney Crosby once told us that a player almost always usually gets a goal his first game after becoming father. We're not sure what the equivalent of that is for goaltender but ... we're going to predict a shutout for him.
-The Hurricanes limp into the season finale with a ton of injuries. This could have been a dangerous team for the Penguins if they had met in the postseason. There aren't too many teams which could match the Penguins at center. Carolina could. But injuries derailed the Hurricane's season in a big way. Cam Ward's knee injury all but ended 2012-13 for Carolina.
-Jordan Staal returns to Pittsburgh for the first time since being traded this past off season. We've said it before but he's one of the 20 most important players in franchise history. He was a major part int his franchise returning to its status as a Stanley Cup contender and was huge for them in the 2009 Stanley Cup final:
-There will be a video tribute for Staal tonight. He should receive a healthy round of applause from Penguins fans.
-Staal admitted today he had never owned a house during his time in Pittsburgh. He revealed he was renting a house from former Penguins center Erik Christensen the past few seasons.
-The fact that Erik Christensen still owned a house in Pittsburgh is tremendous.
-Pascal Dupuis is on the cover of Icetime:
-Fans entering the barn:
-The always rare Joel Kwiatkowski practice jersey:
-JaromeIginla Team Canada:
-An optimistic Tanner Glass fan:
-Joe Morrow Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
-The always rare Dale Hawerchuk/Marty Turco/Milan Kraft Wilkes-Barre/Scranton combo:
-There are a few Hurricanes fans on hand. Eric Staal:
-As well as Whalers fans. Ron Francis:
-A few one-time Penguins-Hurricanes/Whalers. Gary Roberts:
-Jerseys of the Night: Jordan Staal is still popular:
-The Penguins' starters are Pascal Dupuis, Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Mark Eaton, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Beau Bennett, Robert Bortuzzo, Sidney Crosby, DerykEngelland, Eric Hartzell, Dustin Jeffrey, Steve MacIntyre, Brooks Orpik and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Hurricanes' starters are Tuomo Ruutu, Jared Staal, Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk, Tim Gleason and Justin Peters.
-Their scratches are Drayson Bowman, Jay Harrison, Joni Pitkanen and Alexander Semin.
-It looks like Chris Kunitz is back on Malkin's left wing with Neal on the right wing. Iginla is on the left wing with JussiJokinen at center and Dupuis at right wing.
-Jeff Jimerson closes out the regular season:
19:00: Despres steals a puck at the left point, sneaks up the left wing and attacks the net on his backhand. Peters denies him.
18:51: Neal takes a feed in the slot and snaps off a heavy wrister low. Peters kicks it out with his left leg.
17:46: Brandon Sutter glides up the right wing and lifts a wrister on net. Peters eats it up.
17:28: Kevin Westgarth, Bill Cowher's son in law, has a chance in tight but Kennedy backcheck and knocks him off the puck.
16:47: Dupuis snaps off a wrister from a bad angle on the right wing. Peters kicks it out the slot. Jokinen is there for the rebound but can't get a clean handle on it.
16:10: Off a feed by Despres, Malkin cranks a one-timer from the right point over the cage.
14:12: Off a strong forecheck by Sutter which creates a turnover in the left wing corner, Glass whacks a half slapper on net from the left circle. Peters eats it p.
12:01: Malkin has a chance in the slot as he tries to split Gleason and Faulk but he tumbles to the ice as Gleason pressures him.
12:03: Tim Wallace tries to jostle Murray behind the Penguins' net with a forecheck but Murray braces for the hit and shrugs it off.
11:37: Jeff Skinner gains the offensive zone with a flurry and cranks a slapper from the left point. Fleury kicks it out. That was Carolina's first shot on net.
11:16: Adams dumps McBain with a check on the right wing boards in front of the Carolina penalty box.
11:12: Marc-Andre Bergeron chucks a wrister from the right point through traffic. Fleury fights it off.
10:55: Glass smacks Marc-Andre Bergeron into the left wing boards of the Carolina zone.
10:28: The penguins will get the first power play of the game. Eric Staal is called for slashing against Jokinen in the left wing corner of the Penguins' zone. Staal protests the call. Malkin, Iginla, Kunitz, Letang and Neal take the ice. During the first television stoppage, a video tribute is played for Jordan Staal. Staal stands and claps to the fans. The fans return the favor with a standing ovation.
9:26: Off a cross-ice pass from Malkin, Neal grips and rips a wrister from the right circle. Peters fights it off.
9:11: Malkin pulls out the moves and gives the Penguins a lead. Neal picks up a loose puck on the right point, pushes it deep into the right wing corner, turns and deals a pass to Malkin trailing. Malkin takes the pass, makes a nifty move around a hapless Nicolas Blanchard in the right circle and rips a wrister behind Peters. What a move by Malkin. An already lively crowd erupts a little more when Malkin's parents are shown on the video board cheering. Neal and Fleury get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1-0.
8:56: Martin's return to the lineup has a bad start as he is called for delay of game after putting the puck out of play from his own zone. Cooke, Sutter, Letang and Murray take the ice.
7:21: Bergeron cranks a shot from the right point over the Penguins' cage. Niskanen recovers the rebound, turns and whips it down ice for a clear.
7:02: During a stoppage, it was noted Fleury now has a two-game scoring streak on the video board.
6:56: Martin's minor is killed. Not much going on there for the Hurricanes.
6:35: Malkin taps a puck up the right wing and spring Kunitz on a breakaway from the neutral zone. As Faulk gives chase, Kunitz races in and goes forehand. Peters kicks out his shot. That was a big save if Carolina hopes to stay in this game.
5:00: Cooke gets a chance on the right wing, attacks the net and is denied by Peters.
4:53: After Mark Eaton slips in the slot, Jordan Staal gets a chance with a mini-breakaway. From the right circle, he whips a wrister wide to the far side.
4:20: Kennedy hustles the puck up the left wing and snaps off a wrister from the left half wall. Peters fights it off despite a screen.
4:03: Another power play for the Hurricanes. Murray is called for holding Tlusty behind the Penguins' net. Sutter, Martin, Dupuis and Letang take the ice.
2:51: Taking a pass above the left circle, Faulk cranks a one-timer over the cage.
2:20: Morrow and Kunitz getting some time on the penalty kill.
2:03: As the Murray minor expires, Bobby Sanguinetti chops a one-timer form the left point wide to the far side.
0:40: Larose rips a wrister from the slot which Fleury fights off.
0:34: Sanguinetti takes a pass in the left cirlce and lifts a wrister off the near post.
0:02: A last second shot by Jamie McBain from the right point hits a body in front.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Hurricanes 0.
-That was an up and down period. The Penguins controlled the first half while Carolina controlled the second half.
-We liked what we saw with Evgeni Malkin. He seemed to get an extra boost with Kunitz on his left wing.
-Neal seemed pretty aggressive that period. He was pretty aggressive with his shot and didn't seem afraid to go to high traffic areas. He had 5:10 of ice time on six shifts and three shots.
-Outside of his penalty, Paul Martin was hard to notice that period. And that's a good thing given his style of play. He had 8:10 of ice time on 10 shifts and one blocked shot.
-The Hurricanes appear to be working with a short bench. Joe Corvo and former Penguin Tim Brent did not record a shift that period.
-The Penguins have an 11-5 lead in shots.
-Neal leads the game with three shots.
-None of the Hurricanes has more than one shot.
-Jamie McBain leads the game with 9:39 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 8:01.
-The Penguins have a 10-6 lead in faceoffs (63 percent).
-Jokinen is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Eric Staal is 2 for 4 (50 percent).
-Niskanen leads the game with two blocked shots.
19:50: A wrister by Kunitz is denied by Peters.
19:26: Kunitz fires a slapper from the right wing which Peters kicks out.
19:01: Jared Staal settles a "pop fly" and jams a shot from the right of the cage wide to the far side.
18:56: Iginla is called for hooking Jared Staal. Jokinen, Martin, Murray and Dupuis take the ice.
18:06: Faulk snaps off a wrister from the left circle wide to the far side.
17:52: Things get evened up as Ruutu is called fro tripping Eaton off a faceoff in the Penguins' zone. We'll have four-on-four play for 56 seconds.
16:56: The Iginla minor is killed. The Penguins will have 1:03 of power-play time.
16:41: Morrow snaps off a pass from the left wing into the slot. Iginla is all alone in front of the blue paint but the puck hits him int he skates and deflects away.
15:50: Welcome back James Neal. Letang takes a pass on the left wing, settles the puck, surveys the offensive zone and deals a pass to Neal in the slot. Neal rips a wrister which glances off a stick on puck attempt by McBain and blows by Peters's glove hand. The puck hits twine and this dump erupts in noise. What a shot. Letang and Kunitz get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-0.
14:21: Off a pass from Iginla, Martin forces a pass from the left wing to the slot. Sanguinetti is able to fight it off.
13:57: Off a faceoff wing, Gleason puts a heavy wrister on net. Fleury fights it off. Ruutu jabs the rebound back on net. Fleury covers to freeze play.
13:51: Off another offensive zone faceoff win, Bergeron chops a one-timer over the cage from center point. Ruutu recovers the rebound behind the net and tries to sweep in a forehand wraparound attempt. Fleury covers it up.
13:33: The Hurricanes are controlling offensive zone possession. After Letang turns the puck over in his own zone, LaRose lofts a wrister from the left circle. Fleury eats it up as Ruutu takes a swipe at him. Letang and Fleury give Ruutu the business. Fleury then appears to joke a little with Jordan Staal.
12:24: Murray rips a heavy wrister from the right point wide of the cage.
11:04: After a strong puck battle down low in the end boards by Ruutu, Jordan Staal has a in tight but can't get a clean handle on the puck.
10:42: Malkin collects a loose puck in the left wing corner and distributes to Morrow positioned in the left circle. Morrow rips a wrister on net. Peters makes a tough save.
9:57: Cooke sends Wallace sprawling into the left wing corner boards of the Penguins' zone with a body check.
9:39: Off a turnover in the neutral zone, Sanguinetti deals a pass from the left wing boards of the neutral zone to Tlusty on the left wing. Tlusty gets an acre of ice to work with in the left circle and snaps off a heavy wrister to the far side. Fleury is able to fight it off. Tough save. Fans offer "FLERR-EEE!" chants for their goaltender.
8:48: Attendance is announced as 18,658. It is the team's 278th consecutive sellout.
8:28: The Penguins try to set up their "quick-draw" faceoff play with Malkin taking the raw. He wins a sloppy faceoff to Neal behind him. Neal has to adjust to the less than clean win and appears to send his shot over the cage as a result.
7:59: Neal races up the left wing on a pseudo breakaway. He blows by Sanguinetti on the left wing boards and attacks the net. Peters fights off his wrister. Malkin follows up, recovers the rebound and deals a pass to Kunitz trailing on the right wing. As Peters is swimming in his crease, Kunitz whips a wrister wide of the seemingly open net. Argh. The Penguins could have really put this game out of reach there.
7:30: The Hurricanes go to the net. Eric Staal has a mini breakaway down the slot and lifts a wrister on net. Fleury makes the save but allows a rebound. Letang appears to prevent him from cleanly playing the puck. Westgarth crashes in and pokes the puck by Fleury on the glove hand side. A pretty sloppy goal to allow all around. Eric Staal and Faulk get assists. Penguins 2-1.
5:25: Faulk tries to control a puck in the neutral zone and is smoked on a brutal open ice hit by Morrow. Faulk goes down in a heap. He slowly recovers to his skates and remains on the ice.
4:51: Skinner tries to start something with Morrow behind the Carolina net while battling for a puck. Considering his injury history, Skinner might want to walk away from that confrontation.
4:20: Malkin pushes the puck up the left wing and deals a cross-ice feed to Letang in the right circle. Letang rips a wrister on net which Peters denies.
3:50: Jussi Jokinen's revenge. Off a breakout by Letang, Dupuis is able to tap a backhanded pass to Jokinen on the left wing. Jokinen races into the offensive zone and rips a partial two-on-one. Jokinen rips a wrister on net. Peters fights it off with his glove hand. As he falls back, the rebound plops to his right. Jokinen follows up and jabs the rebound juuuust inside the far post from the left wing. He gives his new team a two-goal lead against his former team. Dupuis and Iginla get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 3-1.
3:21: Kunitz beats Faulk to loose puck on the right wing and rips a wrister on net. Peters turns it away.
2:46: The Hurricanes refuse to go away. Dwyer races up the left wing and attacks the net. As Dwyer blows by Niskanen, Fleury challenges with a poke check and force an early shot. The rebound hops to Jordan Staal on the left wing corner. He deals a feed to the slot which hits off the skates of Despres. The puck bounces to Ruutu to the left of thge cage and he lifts a wrister over a sprawling Fleury. That was some rotten luck there for Despre and Fleury. The Hurricanes will take it. Jordan Staal and Dwyer get assists. Fire Ray Shero. Penguins 3-2.
2:12: Blanchard tries to jam in a backhander from the left of the cage. Fleury fights it off.
2:09: The Hurricanes strike with their own "quick-draw" play. Eric Staal wins a faceoff against Sutter in the left circle of the Penguins' zone. From the boards, McBain deals the puck to Westgarth above the left circle. He rips a wrister which glances off the glove hand of Fleury and trickles into the cage. Westgarth, normally an enforcer, has scored his first two goals of the season. The second one was a poort goal for Fleury to allow. McBain and Eric Staal get assists. Hurricanes 3, Penguins 3.
0:59: After an icing call, the Penguins call a timeout to get a breather.
0:02: Off a neutral zone turnover, Tlusty flings a wrister on net from the left wing. Fleury fights it off.
0:00: End of period. Hurricanes 3, Penguins 3.
-That was a pretty sloppy period for both teams, especially the Penguins. There were plenty odd-man rushes for both teams.
-The Penguins looked really sloppy that period. We're not sure if they were too comfortable with a two-goal lead or they just aren't that intense for a meaningless game, but they just didn't look very sharp.
-We're willing to give Fleury a break given the birth of his daughter yesterday but he needs to be a little sharper.
-We're trying to piece together a Steelers postseason joke about Westgarth, the son-in-law of former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.
-Faulk seemed to be complaining to officials that he was struck in the head by Morrow. A replay from the reverse angle appeared to show it as shoulder-on-shoulder with some pretty wicked whiplash for Faulk. It looked like Westgarth invited Morrow to fight to settle the score but Morrow didn't take him up.
The Penguins have a 25-21 lead in shots.
-Neal leads the game with six shots.
-Ruutu and Tlusty each lead the Hurricanes with three shots.
-Faulk lead sthe game with 19:15 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 16:04 of ice time.
-The Penguins have a 25-18 lead in faceoffs (58 percent).
-Malkin is 10 for 15 (67 percent).
-Eric Staal is 7 for 13 (54 percent).
-Niskanen leads the game with three blocked shots.
-None of the Penguins has more than one blocked shot.
19:15: A break for the Penguins. McBain rips a wrister from the right wing on net. Fleury fights it off but is knocked to the ice by Jared Staal. Ruutu recover the rebound behind the cage, emerges on the left wof the cage and whips a wrister into the crease which hits off Fleury's hit and deflects into the cage. An official immediately waves off the goal and sends Jared Staal to the penalty box for goaltender interference. The Penguins get a power play after seemingly giving up the lead. Malkin, Martin, Neal, Kunitz and Iginla
18:53: Off a feed by Malkin, Ignla cranks a one-timer wide of the net on the near side.
18:44: Off a feed by Martin, Neal snaps off a wirster from the right circle juuust wide on ne near side.
18:24: James Neal. Goal scorer. Neal takes a pass in the right circle. He fakes a shot and deals down low to Malkin on the goal line on the right wing. Malkin deals it back to Neal in the left circle. Neal grips and rips a wrister through graffic by the blocker of Peters. it hits off the far post and strikes twine. What a shot. Neal did a nice job of using Gleason as a screen. Malkin and Martin get assists. Penguins 4-3.
16:40: Eric Staal and Westgarth each have chance in tight but can't beat Fleury.
15:46: Looks like Neal is healthy. Off a breakout pass by Murray, Malkin pushes the puck up the right wing with a furry. Creating a two-on-one against Bergeron, He deals a pass to Neal in the left cirlce. Neal leans down and rips a wrister through the gear of Peters. Hats cascade to the ice for Neal's hat trick. It's the third hat trick of his career. Malkin and Kunitz get assists. The "Hey Song" is always healthy Penguins 5-3.
14:36: The rout is on. Cooke plays a puck with a backhander off the right wing towards the net. It hits off the stick of Bergeron. Sutter swoops in and from the left of the cage, he sneaks a pass through legs of McBain to Morrow planted above the blue paint. Morrow is able to tap the puck into the cage by the right skate of Peters. The Penguins have rebounded in a big way this period. The Hurricanes call a timeout to breakup some of the momentum. Sutter and Cooke get assists. The "Hey Song" double shifts. Penguins 6-3.
13:32: Racing for a dump-in against Despres, Wallace takes a spill head-first into the end boards. He pops up immediately and appears fine.
12:23: Sanguinetti flings a wrister from the left point. Fleury punches it away.
12:14: Sanguinetti chops a one-timer from the center point on net. Fleury fights it off.
12:05: Jordan Staal and Adams battle for a loose puck on the left wing boards of the Penguins' zone. Staal slams Adams into the boards and drops him. that was farm strength. Oof.
10:14: Dwyer pushes the puck up the left wing but loses on a sneaky backcheck by Malkin who strips the puck.
10:02: A puck hops over Peters and comes to a rest on the left of the net. Kunitz is there with a wide open net but swats the loose puck off the near post.
9:29: Neal wants more. He walks in from the left circle and snaps of a wrister which Peters kicks out of play.
9:04: The Hurricanes get a late power play as Morrow is called for high sticking. The Hurricanes must get a goal here if they hope to come back. Jokinen, Martin, Cooke and Murray take the ice.
8:23: Cooke backhand chops a loose puck in the slot to the blue line. Bergeron is there for the puck but can't keep it in and allows it to leave the Penguins' zone.
7:27: Adams steals a puck off Sanguinetti on the right wing wall of the Penguins' zone and pushes it up ice to kill some time.
7:04: The Morrow minor is killed with little threat from the Hurricanes.
6:42: Malin challenges McBain one-on-one off the right wing and McBain is able to fight him off the puck.
6:13: Off a give-and-go with Jokinen, Iginla snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Peters kicked it out.
5:47: Bergeron has a slapper from the left half wall blocked by Dupuis.
5:23: Letang sneaks in off the right wing and lifts a backhander on net. Peters eats it up.
4:17: Cooke races up the left wing, pokes a puck by Faulk, settles in in the slot and lifts a wrister by the glove hand of a hapless Peters. The Penguins are just padding statistics at this point. Morrow and Martin get assists. The "Hey Song" is winded.
3:50: "WE WANT THE CUP!" chants begin.
3:07: A wrister by Tlusty is blocked by Niskanen.
2:26: Gleason pounds a slapper which Fleury fights off.
0:48: Why not/ Jokinen one touches a pass to Iginla on the right wing. Iginla gains the offensive zone. He controls on the boards, draws in Gleason and deals a pass to Jokinen in the right circle. Jokinen sneaks a backhanded pass to Dupuis on the other side of the blue paint. Dupuis drives to the net and jabs the puck into the cage by Peters' left skate. The "Hey Song" will be getting an optional skate tomorrow. Jokinen and Iginla get assists. Penguins 8-3.
0:30: Penguins fans offer a standing ovation for their team for hte final 30 seconds.
0:00: End of game. End of regular season. Penguins 8, Hurricanes 3.
-First things first. With the Senators losing to the Flyers tonight, the Penguins' first round opponent is still up in the air. If the Senators earn at least a point tomorrow night in Boston, the Penguins will play the Islanders in the first round.
-Like every game the Penguins participated in this past week, there wasn't a ton for them to accomplish from a team perspective. With the exception of Brooks Orpik, they avoided injury and allowed a few dinged up players to work their ways back into the lineup.
-The big thing the Penguins could take from this game was the reunion of the Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal line. It looked like they halycon days of 2011-12 when those three were the best line in hockey. We have to imagine Dan Bylsma keep them together entering the postseason.
-Neal did not look like a player shaking off the effects of a concussion. He looked like the all-star he was last year. The aggression he showed with his shot selection was dazzling. He had 13:08 of ice time on 16 shifts, eight shots, three goals and one assist.
-Paul Martin was far less noticeable in his own return from a hand injury but that's a good thing. He simply made the right play more oten than not and added a sense of stability to the team's blue line. He had 23:31 of ice time on 29 shifts and was credited with one blocked shot.
-Jussi Jokinen continues to just produce. The moves Ray Shero made to acquire Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla and Douglas Murray all got a lot more attention than the trade he made for Jokinen, but Jokinen has arguably made the most impact on the team thus far. He's played in a variety of roles for this club aleady but has managed to produce 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 10 games. In 33 games with the Hurricanes this season, he had all of 11 points (six goals, five assists).
-The third line of Brenden Morrow-Brandon Sutter-Matt Cooke had another solid outing. They chemistry they have developed is impressive.
-Kris Letang makes a world of difference to this team's offensive attack. The Penguins seem so much more aggressive and confidence with him back there leading the breakout.
-Marc-Andre Fleury could have been a little sharper but considering the circumstances with his personal life, he can be allowed an off night.
-You know things have gone horribly wrong for the Hurricane when Kevin Westgarth is their most productive player.
-The Penguins led in shots, 35-30.
-Neal led the game with eight shots.
-Westgarth led the Hurricanes with four shots.
-Faulk led the game with 29:12 of ice time on 34 shifts.
-The Hurricanes literally had Tim Brent (0:05) and Joe Corvo (0:04) on the ice for a combined 0:09 of ice time tonight.
-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 38-25 (60 percent).
-Jokinen was 12 for 16 (75 percent).
-Eric Staal was 12 for 23 (52 percent).
-Matt Niskanen led the game with five blocked shots.
-None of the Hurricanes had more than one blocked shot.
-Neal's hat trick was the third of his career and the 199th in franchise history.
-Martin recorded his 200th career assist.
-Cooke passed up Ryan Whitney for 55th place on the franchise's all-time career scoring list. Both players have 150 points but Cooke (67 goals) has more goals than Whitney (34).
-Neal passed up Gregg Sheppard and Val Fonteyne for 67th place. Neal and Sheppard each have 123 points but Neal (62) has more goals than Sheppard (50). Fonteyne has 121 points.