Gameday #40: @ Carolina HurricanesPosted: 09/04/2013
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ Carolina Hurricanes
PNC Arena, 7:00 PM, Root Sports
Interesting factoid: the Hurricanes are the only team that the Penguins have played this year that they have not beaten yet. The ‘Canes are also the only team that the Penguins have not played at least twice, so that could be a factor.
Things looked good for the Hurricanes at the start of the season, they made the seemingly game changing move to bring in Jordan Staal, they took a big gamble and were handsomely rewarded by Alexander Semin. Cam Ward looked like an early Vezina candidate and the Southeast Division seemed to be living up to its reputation as the worst division in hockey. It seemed like smooth sailing forcthe Hurricanes, but then the wheels fell off, for all we know the last game they won was against the Penguins back in February. They’ve fallen to within two points of the worst record in the Eastern Conference (the bottom three Eastern Conference teams? Florida is last followed by Tampa and Carolina, worst division indeed).
And any time you talk Pens-Canes we have to come back to the Jordan Staal trade. In terms of the guys at the NHL level, here’s the breakdown:
Sure Jordan has a few more assists, but this has been far from the offensive explosion that most expected of him when he was freed from the shackles of third line responsibility in Pittsburgh. Further Staalsy’s -14 is indicative of a trend that we wrote about last year, he isn’t the player he used to be in the defensive zone. If Staal and Sutter are comparable in production that makes for a win for the Penguins, Sutter is less than half the cost of Staal, and looks to be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.
From there the trade just gets worse and worse if you’re the Hurricanes. After struggling to break the lineup in the early months of the season, Brian Dumolin has become a force in Wilkes-Barre. Like such a force that he may have been the one to make Joe Morrow expendable.
Pittsburgh’s 8th overall pick they acquired from Carolina turned into Derrick Pouliot, who had a pretty good season too.
But those are things to consider in the future. Tonight isn’t going to be determined based on prospects, and the Hurricanes should have plenty of incentive to get up for this game. And the Penguins need a win, the Canadiens have moved to within three points of the Pens and the Canadiens have an extra game in hand. After years of failing to live up to the Civic Arena, CEC has become a definite home ice advantage for the Pens this year, locking it up for the playoffs is key.
The lineups are going to be a mess tonight. In the absence of James Neal we expect to finally see the “first line” broken up. Here is our SWAG method (scientific wild ass guess) at what the Pens will do for tonight’s game.
Defense could go one of several ways depending on whether Letang can come back tonight, but for that we predict:
Niskanen-Murray Orpik-Eaton Engelland-Bortuzzo
Might make sense to play Vokoun tonight, don’t know why other than just to do it.
Beat them while they’re down. Go Pens.