-Welcome to the post-Pascal Dupuis era. Well... the post-Pascal Dupuis having a healthy knee era. The Penguins will be without a player who has proven himself to be pretty valuable in multiple areas of the lineup. First and foremost, he's been a dependable right wing for Sidney Crosby. And contrary to conventional wisdom, finding linemates for Crosby isn't exactly an easy process. (See Satan, Miroslav as well as Fedotenko, Ruslan.) Dupuis fits how Crosby plays. Additionally, Dupuis has been an invaluable member of the team's penalty kill unit, one of the best in the NHL the last several seasons.
-Replacing Dupuis won't be easy but it must be done. How exactly do the Penguins go about doing that?
-In the short term, the Penguins are going to try to patch the hole with the scant internal options they have available. Tonight, it looks like the great Joe Vitale will start the game on Crosby's right wing. Vitale isn't blessed with a ton of puck skills and he doesn't have nearly the shot Dupuis possesses. But he has speed and he hustles. That's half the battle in playing with Crosby. If nothing else, he can keep up with Crosby. Now expecting to do much in terms of getting the puck or producing something off a feed from Dupuis is another matter.
-We wouldn't be surprised to see James Neal get an occasional shift on Crosby's wing either. While Evgeni Malkin is sidelined, there is no reason to cement Neal on the second line.
-If we were sitting in Ray Shero's office, we would weather the storm until Beau Bennett is healthy. If the eight to 10 week timeframe the team offered for Bennett's recovery in the final week of November is still holding true, that would mean Bennett would return to the lineup from his left hand/wrist injury at the end of January. While questions about Bennett's durability were in place even before this latest injury, he's the best internal option to play with Crosby without breaking up Neal and Malkin. Bennett was drafted to be a top-six forward. This will be a prime opportunity to prove it.
-Assuming Bennett does return in late January and skates with Crosby, Shero and Dan Bylsma won't have much time to evaluate him. The NHL's Olympic break takes place Feb. 9 and the league will return to action Feb. 26. The trade deadline is March 5. Let's say for the sake of argument, Bennett's first game is Feb. 1 on the road against Phoenix. That would give the Penguins seven games over the span of six weeks to figure out if a player who has been limited to 12 games this season due to injury is capable of being the top line right winger for a squad with Stanley Cup aspirations.
-It might not be fair to gauge Bennett under those conditions, but there really isn't any other legitimate option internally.
-That brings you to the external options. Ray Shero hasn't been shy about going after high-end top-six wingers at the trade deadline. Gary Roberts, Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Alex Kovalev, James Neal and Jarome Iginla are proof of that.
-There appear to be plenty of rental players who can fit that bill appear to be available. Players like Mike Cammalleri, Matt Moulson and Devin Setoguchi could be available from teams potentially facing rebuilds. While plenty of those players are available, many teams, including the Penguins, don't have a ton of salary cap space available. How will that impact the the trade market?
-This new hole on the first line also accompanies the still pressing need of a physical presence on the third line. How does that impact how Ray Shero will go about his business as March 5 approaches?
-As usual, the Penguins have plenty of assets on the blue line to use in any potential moves. And they're not hesitant about moving defensemen for forwards. If you need an NHL-ready rental defenseman, Matt Niskanen could be available. And plenty of prospects such as Simon Despres, Philip Samuelsson and Scott Harrington could always be moved.
-To put it mildly, there are plenty of layers of dirt and clay that need to be dug through before reaching the bedrock of this situation.
-Pascal Dupuis has been a pretty durable player for the Penguins. Courtesy of Penguins broadcaster/stat god Bob Grove, the longest consecutive game streaks in franchise history:
-What is kind of lost in the Dupuis news is the return of Brooks Orpik from his attack at the hands of Shawn Thornton. It'll be interesting to see how Orpik reacts to any potential big hits. Will he be hesitant? We can't fathom how Thornton's attack would impact him.
-Oh yeah, Deryk Engelland is back from a suspension. Will he be hesitant at laying a big hit after being suspended?
-Oh yeah (also). Welcome back Tanner Glass. His return will help soften the blow of Dupuis' injury with regards to the penalty kill.
-Longtime EN reader Lisa Bohm is on hand and send in a warm-up pick:
-By all accounts, as usual, there are plenty of Penguins fans in Raleigh tonight.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, the great Joe Vitale, Matt Niskanen, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Brian Dumoulin, Brian Gibbons and Evgeni Malkin.
19:10: Nathan Gerbe winds up and cranks a slapper from above the left circle over the cage.
18:37: Jussi Jokinen and Chris Conner try to jam in a few chances in tight but Peters holds them out.
18:08: Patrick Dwyer lifts a wrister from the left circle on net. Fleury fights it off.
16:40: Eric Staal sweeps aroudn the left wing corners, blows by Matt Niskanena and tries to jam in a forehand shot from the right of the cage. Fleury holds it out. What a display of power by Staal.
14:48: The Hurricanes will get the first power play as Dwyer was hooked by Chuck Kobasew near the Penguins' cage. Brandon Sutter, Craig Adams, Robert Bortuzzo and Orpik take the ice.
13:18: Ryan Murphy wires a one-timer from the left half wall. Fleury snags it easily.
12:48: The Kobasew minor is killed with little threat from the Hurricanes.
12:35: Off a touch pass from Kunitz, Crosby chucks a quick shot from the left circle over the cage.
11:52: A half slapper from the right point by Mike Komisarek is steered away by Fleury.
11:46: Semin jabs a wrister from the left half wall. Fleury knocks it down and smothers.
11:07: A half slapper by Drayson Bowman from the right half wall is fought off by FLeury.
10:03: Bortuzzo strokes a slapper from the right point which hits a body in front.
8:43: Off an offensive zone faceoff wing, Tim Gleason chips a wrister from the left point on net. Fleury scoops it up.
6:53: The great Joe Vitale chips a puck up the right wing for Kunitz. Kunitz recovers the puck and deals a pass to Crosby in the left circle. Crosby can't handle the puck cleanls and forces a shot which Peters fights off.
6:30: A slapper by Faulk from the left half wall is rejected by Crosby.
3:10: After a few stagnant minutes, Crosby makes a terrible turnover in his own zone. Andrej Sekera rips awrister from the slot and Fleury traps it against his chest.
3:05: The Penguins will get a power play as Bowman hooked up Olli Maatta off a faceoff. Crosby, Neal, Kunitz, Jokinen and Niskanen take the ice.
2:43: Racing into the offensive zone, Neal rips a heavy wrister from the slot. Peters fights it off.
2:13: Off a drop pass by Jokinen, Neal hammers a one-timer from the high slot. Peters battles it away.
1:01: Maatta collects a drop pass by Kobasew at the right point and hammers a slapper towards the net. Peters holds it oud espite traffic. Sutter, Conner and Kobasew each battle for the rebound but can't punch it in. Officials consult video review to see if the puck crossed the goal line. The review reveals the puck did cross the line but officals rule they lost sight of the puck so no goal.
0:02: The Hurricanes cash in late. After Engelland fails to chip a puck by Gerbe in the left wing corner of the Penguins' zone, Semin whips a quick wrister from the right boards on net. Fleury fights it off. Jordan Staal sttles the rebound and deals a forehand pass from behind the cage to Sekera in the left circle. Sekera hurries a slick backhander by Fleury's glove hand on the far side. What a shot. That was all caused by Engelland failing to get a puck by Gerbe. Jordan Staal and Gerbe get assists. Fire Ray Shero. Hurricanes 1-0.
0:00: End of period. Hurricanes 1, Penguins 0.
-That looked exactly like a period of hockey following three days of inactivity for both teams. Both squads were flat. The passing looked sloppy for both teams as well.
-The Penguins looked especially flat when you consider they had three players - Orpik, Glass and Engelland - returning to the lineup after extended absences.
-We'd be lying if we said we noticed Orpik or Glass. We did notice Engelland on the first Hurricanes goal.
-So far so good for Joe Vitale. Along with Kunitz, he created once chance with some hustle.
-Considering the holes on the top two lines, Kobasew didn't help his case by taking a penalty.
-The Hurricanes have a 16-7 lead in shots on net.
-The Hurricanes have a 29-15 lead in attempted shots.
-Gerbe leads the games with four shots on net.
-Maatta and Neal each lead the Penguins with two shots.
-Sekera leads the game with 7:48 of ice time.
-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 7:26.
-The Hurricanes have a 11-7 lead in faceoffs (61 percent).
-Eric Staal is 6 for 7 (86 percent).
-Crosby is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Bortuzzo and Despres each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-A few on-site images:
19:44: The Penguins start the period with Neal on a line with Crosby and Kunitz and it pays dividends right away. After winning an defensive zone faceoff win, the Hurricanes turn the puck over. the puck rols loose in thes lot and crosby swats it with a backhand behind Peters. What an odd play. Neal and Maatta get assists. Hurricanes 1, Penguins 1.
19:30: The lid has been torn off this game. From his own left wing corner, Maatta tries to wrap a puck around the end boards but turns it over to Semin on the right wing half wall. Semin settles the puck and whips it on net. Fleury makes the initial save but Gerbe is able to out-muscle Niskanen for the puck and plunks it in behind Fleury. What a sloppy play by the Penguins' top defensive pairing. Semin gets the only assist. Hurricanes 2-1.
16:49: Off a feed by Semin from the left wing by Semin, Sekera chops a quick slapper from the left point. Fleury eats it up.
15:53: Jeff Skinner tries to chip in a little shot from the right of the cage. Fleury hugs the post and holds it out.
15:37: Despres leas a rush up the right wing and deals a pass to Conner on the left wing. Conner can't handle the puck cleanly and taps a shot wide on the near side.
13:06: Glass chops a slapper from the left wing which is blocked by Faulk.
11:54: Off a drop pass from Crosby, Despres rips a wrister which is off the mark.
9:31: Radek Dvorak chips and chases a puck into the Penguins' right wing corner. Engelland gets to the puck first and appears to trip into the boards violently. Engelland baced himself for the board and appears to escape injury. There is no penalty and it appears to be the correct call.
7:53: Corralling a puck in the left wing corner boards, Despres fends off a check from Riley Nash and skates the puck out of danger. That was a nice, subtle play by Despres.
7:20: Drayson Bowman rips a wrister from the right fricle which Orpik leans down to block.
7:00: Off a spiining drop pass by Neal, Jokinen lifts a wrister from the left circle. Peters eats it up.
6:44: Faulk grips and rips a wrister from the righ tpoint. Fleury eats it up.
6:05: Murphy gets away with a high stick into the face of Kobasew.
5:45: Orpik ropes a wrister from the left point which Peters fights off despite a screen by Kunitz.
5:22: Crosby steals a puck off Faulk in the left wing corner of the Carlina zone, turns and deals a pass to Neal in the slot. Neal booms a quick shot which Peters fights off.
4:42: Adams grips and rips a wrister from the right circle wide to the far side.
3:44: A wrister by Hainsey from the left point is deflected wide.
3:08: The Hurricanes are dominating puck possession in the Penguins' zone. Hainsey pounds a shot from above the left circle into a cluster of bodies in front.
2:52: Conner lifts a wrister from the left wing wide of the cage.
2:03: Crosby flots a backhander from the left circle wide of the cage.
1:24: Manny Malhotra rips a wrister from the right wing wide on the near side.
1:01: From the slot, Bowman re-directs a shot/pass off the left wing over the cage.
0:17: Sutter races up the left wing, chips a puck by Faulk and flips a backhander on net which Peters eats up.
0:00: End of period. Hurricanes 2, Penguins 1.
-Things opened up quite a bit that period. There was lots of aggressive skating and the passing was a little crisper.
-The Penguins still look a tad sluggish. If it wasn't evident already, they have had a three day break and are working three players back into the lineup after extended absences.
-Neal took a lot of shifts with Crosby that period and they showed a lot more chemistry in that that 20 minutes than they ever have during their brief cups of coffee as linemates.
-If not for a big save by Peters, Crosby would have had an assist on a goal by Neal about midway through the period.
-Times like this are when a goal by Sutter would be huge.
-The Hurricanes have a 26-16 lead in shots.
-The Hurricanes lead in attempted shots, 55-31.
-Gerbe leads the game with five shots.
-Neal leads the Penguins with three shots.
-The Hurricanes have a 25-17 lead in faceoffs (60 pecent).
-Hainsey leads the game with 15:05 of ice time.
-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 14:56.
-Eric Staal is 9 for 13 (69 percent).
-Crosby is 10 for 19 (53 percent).
-Despres leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Faulk and Hainsey each lead the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-The NHL offered an explanation on the Penguins' non-goal in the first period:
18:12: Skinner chops a wrister from the left circle over the cage.
18:02: Chris Conner to the rescue!?!? Pushing the puck into the offensive zone, he challenges Murphy one-on-one cut across the slot in front of the blue paint and finds a way to sneaks a backhander through the five hole of Murphy. How did that go in? Even Conner looks surprised. Jokinen gets the only assist. Hurricanes 1, Penguins 1.
16:01: A wrister by Vitale has been blocked by Sekera.
13:51: Battling for a puck in the slot, Kunitz lifts a wrister on net. Peters eats it up.
13:06: A one-timer attempt by Gerber from above the left circle is blocked by Crosby.
11:06: Boychuk lifts a tricky wrister from the left circle. Fleury knocks it down and smothers it.
10:35: Kobasew gets a shift with Crosby and Kunitz. Off a rush up the right wing, Kobasew directs a pass to the slot for Crosby which is a bit off the mark.
9:39: Murphy tees up a bit slapper from the right point which hits of a stick and is re-directed wide.
8:12: According to Root Sports broadcaster, Bob Errey, Olli Maatta headed own the runway to the dressing room with equipment manager Dana Heinze.
7:46: Bortuzzo chips a re-direct on net from the slot. Peters knocks it dead and covers.
6:45: The Penguins go to the net and take a lead. Taking a pass at the right point, Engelland tees up a slapper from the right point The great Joe Vitale is battling for position with Murphy in front of Peters. The puck hits something and trickles over the goal line as Vitale takes a tumble. Engelland gets credit for the goal. Orpik and Jokinen get assists. Penguins 3-2.
6:28: The Panthers nearly get it right back. Dwyer gets some space in the slot and rips a wrister wide of the cage.
5:48: The Penguins came so close to getting an insurance goal. Crosby feeds a pass from the right wing to Kunitz above the left circle. Kunitz rips a wrister off the right post.
5:20: Off a chip pass by Kunitz, Neal rips a wrister from the left circle wide to the far side.
4:58: Eric Staal rips a long-distance wrister from above the left circle. Fleury eats it up.
3:11: Semin chips a one-timer from the center point over the cage.
2:49: Murphy booms a slapper from the right point which Fleury fights off.
2:29: The Hurricnes dominate puck possession and tie the game. During a dominant shift for Carolina in teh Penguins' zone, Dwyer floats a wrister from the left circle which deflects behind the cage. Bowman collects the rebound and feeds a shot/pass from the right of the cage to the blue paint. It hits off the skate of Maatta and deflects into the cage. The Hurricanes generate that goal through hard work. Dwyer and Hainsey get assists. Hurricanes 3, Penguins 3.
0:38: Off a steal by Crosby at the Carolina blue line, Neal chops a quick shot from the left circle wide of the cage.
0:04: Adams airmails a slapper from the neutral zone. Peters steers it away.
0:00: End of period. Hurricanes 3, Penguins 3.
-The Hurricanes have a 32-25 lead in shots on net.
4:24: Racing into the offensive zone on the left wing, Sekera rips a low wrister. Fleury kicks it out.
4:14: Off a feed by Eric Staal, Sekera lifts a shot from the right half wall which Fleury shots with a shoulder. Fleury appears to be wincing in pain afterwards.
3:57: James Neal to the rescue. Off a little give and go with Jokinen, Neal darts down the slot and rips a wrister by a diving Hainsey and behind Peters' glove hand on the far side. What a shot. Jokinen and Engelland get assists. End of game. Penguins 4, Hurricanes 3.
-This was hardly a clean win. The Penguins had a little rust as a team following the holiday break and individually in the cases of Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Tanner Glass. There was a lot of sloppy play by the team in white. But a blend of contributions from superstar players, role players and fill-ins helped the Penguins earn a hard-fought two points on the road.
-What really stood out was how the Penguins shook off their own mistakes - bad passes or ugly turnovers - to pull this game. They could have just caved in as they did Monday against the Senators but they fought through their own mistakes and took over the game.
-Engelland was a perfect example of this. He fumbled a puck in his own zone which led to the first Carolina goal in overtime. He shrugged that off as well as a violent collision with the end boards during the second period to score a go-ahead goal late in the third period.
-Another part which stood out to us in this game was the Penguins' ability to come back from playing with a deficit most of the game. Part of their success with all the injuries and suspensions they have endured as their ability to play with the first lead of the game. Tonight, they battled back from two deficits and won the game.
-After the game, Dan Byslma called Marc-Andre Fleury the team's best player. he had to be, at least early on. Much of the game, particularly early on, was played in the Penguins' zone and Fleury saw a lot of shots on net, especially on prolonged stretches of possession by the Hurricanes in the Penguins' zone. Fleury was the most stable entity in a white jersey tonight.
-The Penguins started with the great Joe Vitale on the first line right wing then eventually cemented James Neal on that line. The results were better than what we saw against the Senators tonight. They had some chemistry. They connected on a few passes here and there. The chemistry isn't quite at the same level as Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, but this was by far the best those two have looked int he handful of times they've been teamed together in five-on-five play the past two seasons.
-We're not sure how to evaluate the defense. The blue line looked rusty after three off days and that was amplified by the return of Engelland and Orpik after extended absences. There were mistakes with poor passes and turnovers. Simply put, it wasn't a great effort on defense but the circumstances can't be ignored when evaluating this unit.
-Orpik was fairly quiet in his first game back. he had 20:38 of ice time on 25 shifts and blocked two shots but it would be a stretch to say he was easy to notice.
-His net crash in the first period aside, Tanner Glass had a quiet performance as well. He had 11:02 of icetime on 14 shifts and one shot.
-Despres was one of the better Penguins defensemen tonight. He had plenty of little, subtle plays where he was able to skate the puck out of danger from his own zone near the cage. He even had a few offensive chances.
-The lack of special teams for either team probably played a role in limiting what Oprik and Glass could contribute. Both are big parts of the penalty kill and each team only got one power play.
-Jussi Jokinen came through with a much-needed three-assist effort after a stretch of flat play. Jokinen just hasn't contributed much as of late. And considering the rampant injuries up front, the team has needed more from him. He offered quite a bit tonight.
-Somewhat lost in all the injury news today was the fact that Olli Maatta played in his 40th NHL game today. That means he has officially burn through a year of his restricted free agency and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2019-20 season.
-Chris Conner gets a dogged a lot by his critics, but he keeps finding ways to contribute. He came though with a key goal at the start of the third period which tied the game tonight. Like him or not, Conner, despite his limited puck skills, fits this team's style of play very well.
-Andrej Sekera was one of Carolina's better players tonight. It seemed like he never left the ice.
-The more and more we watch Patrick Dwyer, the more and more we like him. He's a nice third-line player. He gave the Penguins fits tonight.
-Justin Peters played okay but a few of the goals he allowed, particularly, the Conner score, were a bit leaky.
-The Hurricanes have a 34-26 lead in shots on net.
-The Hurricanes led in attempted shots, 70-49.
-Neal, Nathan Gerbe and Sekera each led the game with five shots on net.
-Ron Hainsey led the game with 23:27 of ice time.
-Matt Niskanen led the Penguins with 23:14.
-The Hurricanes led in faceoffs, 36-26 (58 percent).
-Eric Staal was 13 for 18 (72 percent).
-Crosby was 14 for 27 (52 percent).
-Despres and Crosby each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Justin Faulk and Hainsey each led the Hurricanes with two blocked shots.
-Jokinen had his second three-point night of the season. The first was his hat trick game against the Hurricanes Oct. 8.
-Since being acquired from the Hurricanes, Jokinen now has nine points (five goals, four assists) in five games against his former team which is still playing a portion of his salary.
-Fleury appeared in his 500th career game.
-Neal recorded his first regular season overtime goal for the Penguins.
-The Penguins' last overtime win against the Hurricanes was a 4-3 win at home March 19, 2004. Aleksey Morozov scored the winning goal.
-Neal moved into a past Dave Hannan for 57th place on the Penguins' all-time scoring list. Both players have 148 points but Neal (73) has more goals than Hannan (60).
-Evgeni Malkin was happy:
I guess this guy is happy: pic.twitter.com/wem1FohLeg— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) December 28, 2013