Hurricanes-Penguins Preview

With an offense that seems to have adjusted to Sidney Crosby’s

absence, the Pittsburgh Penguins rolled into a three-day Christmas

break on a high note.

The Carolina Hurricanes seem to have finally produced some

much-needed holiday momentum of their own.

Led by a resurgent Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins look for a fourth

consecutive victory Tuesday night against the visiting Hurricanes,

who will try to win their third straight for the first time since

mid-October.

Crosby has only played eight games this season, and none since

Dec. 5 due to concussion-like symptoms.

Pittsburgh (20-11-4) dropped three of its first four during its

captain’s current absence, but did put up four goals in the final

one of those losses at Ottawa on Dec. 16.

Malkin had a goal and an assist in that defeat, and has gone on

to lead the Penguins to their current three-game win streak. The

former Conn Smythe Trophy winner had a hat trick and two assists in

an 8-3 rout of Buffalo one night after the loss to the Senators,

three assists in a win over Chicago last Tuesday and set up James

Neal’s tiebreaking goal early in the third period of a 4-1 victory

at Winnipeg on Friday.

“We were feeling like the next goal would be a big decider,”

coach Dan Bylsma told the league’s official website. “I’m really

pleased with the way we came out in the third. We kept pushing. I

thought we took over the game in the third period.”

Malkin has six goals and 10 assists during a seven-game point

streak since Crosby went down, but he hasn’t found the back of the

net in two games against Carolina (12-19-6) despite firing 16 shots

on goal.

He had an assist in a 5-3 loss in Raleigh on Nov. 12 and another

there Dec. 3, setting up Pascal Dupuis’ game-winner in the third

period of a 3-2 victory.

Including postseason, Malkin has eight goals and nine assists in

10 career home games against the Hurricanes.

Carolina entered Monday having allowed 119 goals – second-most

in the league – but got a solid performance from the much-maligned

Cam Ward for the second straight game. After making 22 stops in a

2-1 win over Ottawa on Friday, Ward made 23 saves – and received

credit for scoring a bizarre empty-netter – in a 4-2 victory over

visiting New Jersey that got the Hurricanes out of the Eastern

Conference basement.

Carolina has won back-to-back games for just the third time this

season. The Hurricanes won three straight once, Oct. 12-18.

“What I really like in the last six, seven games is that we’re a

little bit more consistent,” new coach Kirk Muller said. “We’re

not beating ourselves, for the most part, and the points that we

have given away are things that we’ve done. So the last couple

games, we’ve done a better job of that and we’ve been doing a lot

of good things.”

Perhaps the biggest key for the Hurricanes in the last two

victories has been staying out of the penalty box. Carolina has

only had to kill two opposing power plays, improving to 9-4-3 when

it doesn’t give up a goal while short-handed.

The Penguins, however, have been thriving with the man advantage

lately. They’re 7 for 20 (35.0 percent) on the power play in their

last four games after going 6 for 49 (12.2 percent) in their

previous 13.

Pittsburgh is 14-4-3 when it scores a power-play goal.