Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
36-20-6-78
Home: 20-11-2-42
Road: 16-9-4-36

Carolina Hurricanes
Overall:
28-24-9-65
Home: 15-10-3-33 
Road:
13-14-6-32

 

Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes

Scouting Report

February hasn’t been kind to Carolina, as the Hurricanes have gone just 3-5-2 since the first day of the month. They’re currently holding onto the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, just three points ahead of the surging Buffalo Sabres – who also have two games in hand on the Hurricanes.

One of the main reasons behind Carolina’s current playoff position is captain Eric Staal, who has been having a season worthy of the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. He leads the Hurricanes in several categories across the board, including goals (27), assists (31), points (58) and shots on goal (228) while being tied for first among NHL forwards with an average of 22:09 minutes per game.

Now it seems Staal will be reunited with forward Cory Stillman, acquired from Florida on Thursday in exchange for Ryan Carter and a fifth-round pick to steady the left wing position. The 37-year-old Stillman, who was an alternate captain on the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup championship squad in 2006, possesses immense playmaking ability. He was on Staal’s left wing during the captain’s most productive season in 2005-06 while Erik Cole manned the right wing, and there’s a possibility that line may be reunited Friday.

While their forward line has been rounded out with the acquisition of Stillman, their defensive corps has been struggling as of late, especially with Joni Pitkanen missing Tuesday’s tilt with an upper-body injury that has him listed as day-to-day. The Hurricanes allowed the Rangers to tee off 46 shots on Tuesday and have the seventh-worst defense in the league, allowing an average of 3.00 goals-against per game. But goaltender Cam Ward has been playing well, as he has started 16 straight games and leads the league in saves with 1,596.

Interesting Facts

  • Forward Alex Kovalev received quite the birthday present on Feb. 24 when the 38-year-old winger was acquired by the Penguins from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. This will be Kovalev’s second tour of duty in Pittsburgh, as he spent parts of five seasons with the Penguins between 1998-2003, averaging better than a point per game with 347 points (149G-198A) in 345 games. Kovalev had his best offensive season with the Penguins in 2000-01, establishing career highs across the board with 44 goals, 51 assists and 95 points.
  • This season, Kovalev ranked fourth (tied) on the Senators with 27 points (14G-13A) in 54 games. He has been hot of late, notching nine points (6G-3A) over his past 10 games. Kovalev’s 14 goals this season tie him for second-most with Tyler Kennedy among healthy Penguins (James Neal, 21).
  • The Penguins begin a five-game road stretch on Friday by visiting Carolina in the final meeting of the 2010-11 campaign between the two teams. Pittsburgh is 3-0 against the Hurricanes so far this season, and the Penguins are looking to sweep Carolina for the first time since 1997-98 (6-0) and fourth time in history.
  • In the only other meeting between the two teams this season at RBC Center, Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson stopped 33 saves to pick up his first shutout as a Penguin and the 14th of his career in a 3-0 Pittsburgh victory on Oct. 30. Pascal Dupuis tallied twice in that contest. He leads the Penguins with three goals in three games against the Hurricanes this season.

Keys to the Game

Stifle Their Power Play: The Hurricanes enter Friday’s game having converted on just one of their last 30 power-play opportunities. The Penguins will need to keep their penalty kill unit sharp to keep Carolina’s power play slumping.

Continue to Crash the Net: When the Penguins get to the blue paint, good things happen. That was evident Wednesday withTyler Kennedy‘s two goals off juicy rebounds. They’re doing a good job of throwing the puck to the net quickly and being there for the rebounds and will need to continue that Friday.

Injury Report

Pens Arron Asham, concussion (IR)
Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
Dustin Jeffrey, lower body (IR)
Nick Johnson, concussion (day-to-day)
Chris Kunitz, lower body (IR)
Mark Letestu, lower body (IR)
Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)
Paul Martin, upper-body (day-to-day)
Brooks Orpik, hand (4 weeks)
Eric Tangradi, concussion (indefinitely)
Canes D Joni Pitkanen, lower body (day-to-day)

Who’s Hot

  Matt Cooke - Cooke has put together an outstanding stretch of hockey since returning to the lineup on Feb. 20 against Chicago, scoring three points in three games. The penalty kill specialist tallied his team-high third shorthanded goal of the season against the Blackhawks to help the Penguins garner a crucial point in the NHL standings in a 3-2 shootout setback. With that goal, Cooke now leads the entire league with six shorthanded points and in assists (tied) with three. Cooke then went on to earn a pair of assists in a 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose on Wednesday. The gritty forward has been a force all over the ice, as he ranks second on the team with 171 hits.
 
  Jussi Jokinen – Jokinen found the back of the net for the first time since Jan. 22 when he put forth a two-goal effort on Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers. His pair of goals came within a 10-minute span in the third period and gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead that would prove to be crucial in netting Carolina a point in the standings. Jokinen, who has 14 goals and 27 points through 49 games, appears to be returning back to form after missing six games from Feb. 3-18 due to injury.

Stat Chart

G Crosby (32) E.Staal (27)
A Letang (37) E.Staal (31)
P Crosby (66) E.Staal (58)
PIM Cooke (108) Gleason (69)
+/- Crosby (+20) Sutter (+12)
PP Crosby (10) E.Staal (9)
SH Cooke (3) E.Staal (2)
W/L Fleury (27-15-4) Ward (25-20-8)
GAA Fleury / Johnson (2.27) Ward (2.78)
SVP Fleury (.921) Ward (.918)

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired forward Alex Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, it was announced by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.

The pick will become a sixth-round selection if the Penguins win the first round of the playoffs and he plays at least 50 percent of the games in the first round.

Kovalev, 38, will be in his second tour of duty with Pittsburgh after originally spending parts of five seasons with the Penguins between 1998-2003.

The Togliatti, Russia native ranked fourth (tied) on Ottawa with 27 points (14G-13A) in 54 games. He has six goals and nine points over his previous 10 games. Earlier this season, Kovalev notched his 1,000th NHL point with a goal against the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 22.

Kovalev’s best NHL seasons came during his first stint in Pittsburgh. In 345 games with the Penguins the 6-foot-2, 222-pound forward tallied 149 goals, 198 assists and 347 points. He added 11 goals and 28 points in 39 postseason contests.

A two-time All-Star during his time with the Penguins, Kovalev established career highs across the board offensively in 2000-01, scoring 44 goals and adding 51 assists for 95 points.

In addition to playing for Pittsburgh and Ottawa, Kovalev, who was originally drafted by the New York Rangers in the first round (15th overall) of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, has also suited up for the Rangers (twice) and Montreal during his 18-year NHL career. Kovalev was a member of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup championship squad.

Kovalev has 426 goals, 591 assists and 1,017 points in 1,282 career games. He has 44 goals and 54 assists in 116 career postseason contests.

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FINAL
3 – 2
SHARKS PENGUINS
FINAL 1 2 3 OT T
SHARKS 0 1 1 1 3
PENGUINS 1 0 1 0 2


Analysis
Despite the continuing assault of injuries the Penguins keep suffering, the team has still managed to collect points in the NHL standings.

That was the case again Wednesday night at CONSOL Energy Center against the red hot San Jose Sharks. Pittsburgh entered the game with 10 injured players. Things got worse when the team lost defenseman Brooks Orpik in the first period and trailed by a 2-1 score with less than one minute remaining in regulation.

Tyler Kennedy scored with just 50 seconds remaining to force overtime, and secured a crucial point in the NHL standings at a juncture in the season where such points are hard to earn.

Though the Sharks eventually won the contest, 3-2 in the overtime session – on Patrick Marleau’s second goal of the game with 4 seconds left – the Penguins fought back against the heavyweight Sharks, who are now 14-2-1 in their last 17 games, and were close to pulling out the victory.

The Penguins will next embark on their longest road trip of the season, a five-game swing that will see the team play at Carolina, Toronto (twice), New Jersey and Boston.

 

Star of the Game
Tyler Kennedy continues to lead the Penguins’ scoring attack by netting his 13th and 14th goals of the season. He has seven goals in the last 11 games.

Matt Cooke took a shot from the slot that Sharls goalie Antti Niemi kicked to the side of the net in the first period. Kennedy jetted in and buried the shot into an open cage to open the scoring.

Kennedy secured a point for the Penguins in the standings when he tied the game with 50 seconds remaining on his second score of the night. Jordan Staal’s shot hit the post and the puck settled in the crease. Kennedy pounced in and slammed the puck into the goal.

He finished the night with two goals, four shots and a plus-1 rating in 18:37 minutes of ice time.

Turning Point
The Penguins were trailing 2-1 in the third period with under one minute to play. The team pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the extra attacker.

In a desperation play, Jordan Staal took a shot towards the goal as two teammates crashed the net looking for some loose change. Tyler Kennedy was there and found the loose puck. He buried it to tie the game at 2-2, and guaranteed the Penguins would pick up one point in the NHL standing.

 

AP Recap
(AP) – Patrick Marleau scored his second goal of the game at 4:56 of overtime to extend the San Jose Sharks’ winning streak to five games with a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

Logan Couture, with his franchise rookie-record tying 25th goal of the season, also scored while Antti Niemi stopped 24 shots. Improving to 14-2-1 in their past 17 games, the surging Sharks vaulted a point ahead of Phoenix to take over the Pacific Division lead.

Tyler Kennedy scored twice for the Penguins, including tying the game by stuffing in Jordan Staal‘s rebound, with 50 seconds remaining in the third period.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
36-20-5-77
Home: 20-11-1-41
Road: 16-9-4-36
San Jose Sharks
Overall:
34-21-6-74
Home: 15-10-3-33 
Road:
19-11-3-41

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. San Jose Sharks  

Scouting Report

The San Jose Sharks come to CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday as one of the league’s hottest teams. After opening 2011 with a six-game losing streak from Jan. 3-13 that put a damper on their postseason hopes in an extremely close Western Conference playoff race, the Sharks have rebounded with a vengeance and are currently on an 13-2-1 tear that’s catapulted them into sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference (and one point from third).

San Jose seems poised to build off last season’s finish, which featured a Western Conference finals appearance for the first time since 2002-03, under head coach Todd McLellan, now in his third year with the team. He led the Sharks to a 51-20-11 record in 2009-10 that came right after San Jose set new club records with 53 wins, 117 points and earned the President’s Trophy for the first time in McLellan’s first season behind the bench.

The Sharks parted ways over the summer with long-term netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who had spent all 10 seasons of his career with the franchise. In his stead they acquired goaltender Antti Niemi from Chicago, who won the 2010 Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks as a rookie. Niemi has struggled at times to find consistency this season, but is thriving with more playing time. He’s started 16 straight games for the Sharks and earned his fifth shutout of the season (and his third in eight games) on Feb. 19 vs. the Avalanche. He earned ‘First Star’ honors for the week ending Feb. 20, as he stopped 78-of-81 shots, posted a 3-0 record, a 0.98 goals-against average and .963 save percentage.

Offense has always been the Sharks’ strong point, and that’s no different this year. Longtime Shark Patrick Marleau – who became the youngest player to dress 1,000 games for one franchise on Jan. 17 – paced the squad with 44 goals and 83 points last season, while Joe Thornton scored 83 points (20G-69A) and Dany Heatley had 82 points (39G-43A). While those three aren’t producing at quite the same clip they were last season, they’re still posting decent numbers. But a pleasant surprise for San Jose this season has been the play of rookie forward Logan Couture, whose 24 goals lead the team and rank second among first-year players. He leads the NHL with eight game-winning goals.

But the Sharks’ improvement this season (and the reason for their winning stretch) has come on the back end, as Feb. 19’s 4-0 win over Colorado marked the first time San Jose has won a game by more than two goals since Dec. 23. Dan Boyle, whose 26:45 of ice time per game in second in the league, leads them. Boyle, 34, has been the anchor of San Jose’s blue line and has 37 points (6G-37A) through 61 games. He’s joined by Douglas Murray, who is first on the team with 125 hits and second with 105 blocked shots.

Interesting Stats

  • The Penguins made their first major trade of the season on Feb. 21 when they acquired forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen from the Dallas Stars in exchange for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Neal, who is highly regarded as one of the top young power forwards in the game, is a three-time 20-goal scorer who ranked third on Dallas this season with 21 goals, and fifth with 39 points, at the time of the trade. He is expected to begin his Penguins’ career playing the left side on a line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.
  • Niskanen, 24, is a right-handed shooting defenseman who is in his fourth NHL season. A 2005 first-round pick (28th overall) of the Stars, Niskanen had six assists in 45 games with Dallas this season. His best season came in 2008-09 when he led all Dallas blueliners with 35 points (6G-29A). Niskanen is expected to team withDeryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy on the team’s third D-pairing.
  • This is the first meeting between the two teams in Pittsburgh since the Penguins recorded a 2-1 shootout victory at Mellon Arena on Feb. 11, 2009. Sidney Crosbyscored the game-deciding shootout goal and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 36 of 37 shots to record the victory. The Penguins are 2-0-1 in their past three home games against the Sharks.
  • Pittsburgh owns a 9-4-2 record this season against teams from the Western Conference, including a 5-2 mark at home. The Penguins’ nine wins against the West are tied for second-most in the East, while their .667 winning percentage versus the West is tied with Carolina for tops in the Eastern Conference.
  • The Penguins will be wearing their powder blue ‘third jerseys’ for the next-to-last time this season. Pittsburgh owns a 7-3 record this season when they wear blue, including a 6-2 mark in powder blue and a 1-1 record in dark blue. The Penguins own an 18-9-3 all-time record in powder blue since first debuting the jerseys at the 2008 Winter Classic.
  • Pittsburgh enters Wednesday’s game with 20 home wins in 32 games, the second-most number of home wins in the NHL behind Vancouver, who has 21. The Penguins’ 20-11-1 home record includes an 18-7-1 mark over their last 26 games since starting just 2-4 at their new home. Over their past eight home games the Penguins are 6-2 and have surrendered just 11 goals for a 1.36 goals-against average.

Keys to the Game

Get the New Guys Acclimated: The newest members of the Penguins family – forward James Neal and Matt Niskanen – were unable to practice with Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning at CONSOL Energy Center due to weather conditions. The Penguins will have to find chemistry with their new teammates as quickly as possible against a surging Sharks squad.

Capitalize on Their Fatigue: The Sharks come to CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday having played the night before in Detroit. It marks the second contest of a three-game road swing through the East that came just two home games after a seven-game road trip that spanned from Feb. 2 to Feb. 15. The Penguins, with their bolstered lineup with the arrival of Neal and Niskanen, will need to take advantage of the Sharks’ tired legs.

Injury Report

Arron Asham, upper body (IR)
Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
Dustin Jeffrey, lower body (IR)
Nick Johnson, upper body (day-to-day)
Chris Kunitz, lower body (IR)
Mark Letestu, lower body (IR)
Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)
Paul Martin, upper-body (day-to-day)
Eric Tangradi, concussion-like symptoms (indefinitely)
G Antero Niittymaki, lower body (indefinitely)
D Marc-Edouard Vlasic, upper body (indefinitely)

Stat Chart

G
Crosby (32) Couture (24)
A
Letang (37) Thornton (37)
PTS
Crosby (66) Thornton (52)
PIM
Cooke (108) Mayers (107)
+/-
Crosby (+20) Couture (+15)
PP
Crosby (10) Thornton/Heatley (9)
SH
Cooke (3) Marleau (2)
W/L
Fleury (27-15-3) Niittymaki (12-6-3)
GAA
Fleury (2.26) Niemi (2.45)
SVP
Fleury (.922) Niemi (.919)

Who’s Hot

Jordan Staal - While Staal didn’t get on the scoresheet Monday in the Penguins’ 1-0 loss to the Capitals, he continued to be a force all over the ice. Staal logged 25:16 of ice time, the fourth time in the last six games he’s skated for 24-plus minutes. He fired five shots on net and wrecked havoc in front of the cage with his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. Prior to Monday’s tilt, Staal had embarked on a five-game point streak that saw him tally three goals and three assists over that stretch.
Devin Setoguchi – Setoguchi put forth a two-goal effort on Tuesday to bolster his team to a 4-3 win over conference rival Detroit. Prior to that game, Setoguchi collected his first-career hat trick on Feb. 19 to power the Sharks to a 4-0 blanking of Colorado. The 24-year-old forward scored even-strength and with the man-advantage before capping his trick with an unassisted tally. On Feb. 15, he had scored in regulation in the Sharks’ 2-1 overtime win over Nashville and threw nine pucks to the net in that game. Setoguchi now has 15 points (10G-5A) in his last 13 tilts.

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-assigned forward Ryan Craig and defenseman Brian Strait to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, it was announced by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.

Craig has appeared in six games this season for Pittsburgh. Strait made his NHL debut Monday vs. Washington, logging 13:02 minutes of ice time.

FINAL

1 – 0

WASHINGTON

PENGUINS

FINAL

1

2

3

T

WASHINGTON

0

1

0

1

PENGUINS

0

0

0

0

Analysis

Despite a battered and bruised lineup against the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh came out flying, playing a hard-hitting, physical game. The exciting tempo of the game created numerous chances for Pittsburgh, but the Penguins couldn’t quite convert, ultimately falling to the Capitals 1-0.
The Penguins went to the net hard and found themselves nearly burying the puck many times, but great goaltending by Michal Neuvirth, bouncing pucks and a little bad luck from the posts kept the Penguins off the board. The Penguins outshot the Capitals 39-24.

Marc-Andre Fleury joined in on the excitement midway through the first frame when Alexander Ovechkin had a chance on a breakaway. The Penguins netminder made a great, sprawling blocker save on the play.

Most of the game continued at that pace, with the Penguins creating one exciting scoring chance after another, and Fleury making a few more great saves in between. The stalemate finally broke near the end of the second period though, when Ovechkin finally broke through on the power play. That was all the scoring the Capitals would need to get the win.

Star of the Game

Just one day after getting hit in the face with a puck in Chicago, Jordan Staal had a hand in many of the numerous scoring chances the Penguins created.

He was Mr. Everything for the Penguins Monday night, as he manned the top line between Brett Sterling and Pascal Dupuis. He logged a total of 25:16 in ice time, marking the fourth time in the past six games that he registered more than 24 minutes on the ice. He spent 3:08 on the power play and killed off 3:09 in penalties.

In the absence of faceoff specialist Sidney Crosby, Staal stepped up and won his first five faceoffs of the game. He also recorded five shots and threw two hits.

Unsurprisingly, it was on the penalty kill that Staal was at his best. In the first few minutes of the game, he almost converted on a shorthanded chance that Maxime Talbotset up by stealing a D-to-D pass from the Capitals. Then, in the second period, right after Matt Cooke almost scored shorthanded, Staal took a pass from Cooke and managed to get around the Capitals defenseman for a shorthanded breakaway, but Michal Neuvirth made a great save.

Turning Point

That missed shorthanded opportunity by Jordan Staal in the second period marked the point where the momentum shifted into the Capitals’ favor. Prior to that, it was all Penguins, with Alexander Ovechkin getting a chance here and there.

But after Michal Neuvirth stopped Staal on the shorthanded breakaway, the Capitals finally lit the lamp thanks to an Ovechkin blast from the right point into the net behind a screened Marc-Andre Fleury.

AP Recap

Alex Ovechkin scored the only goal and Michal Neuvirth was perfect for the second straight time against the Penguins, leading the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 win at Pittsburgh on Monday night.

Neuvirth made 39 saves, including 18 in the first period, for his third shutout of the season, and second against the Penguins after a 3-0 victory on Feb. 6. Ovechkin secured the Capitals third win in four games by blasting a 35-footer over Marc-Andre Fleury‘s right shoulder late in the second period.

For fans that are heading to CONSOL Energy Center on Monday for the Penguins’ 7:30 p.m. game versus the Washington Capitals, here are some key points of information:

  • Doors will open at 6:00 pm for the 7:30 pm start
  • The Penguins will be wearing their traditional black home uniform
  • The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a pack of Upper Deck Trading Cards
  • Be sure to complete the survey inserted in your IceTime magazine for a chance to win an autographed Crosby or Malkin jersey
  • Stop by the “Carvery” located by Section 107 to purchase one of tonight’s special chef-prepared creations:
  • Roast Strip Loin Sandwich – NY strip, provolone cheese, caramelized onions, roasted garlic rosemary aioli
  • Buffalo Chicken Sandwich – Shredded chicken, pickled red onion, pepper jack cheese
  • Visit PensGear  to purchase tonight’s “Item of the Game!” 
– Save $8 on Sidney Crosby name and number t-shirts – available tonight only for $17.99
  • Purchase a Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation Charity ASSIST Raffle ticket for your chance to win at least $2,000 – this evening’s proceeds benefit the Pittsburgh North Optimist Club