Hurricanes start to feel urgency entering game against Pens
RALEIGH, N.C. — Either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Carolina Hurricanes will receive a much-needed get-well result Tuesday night when they meet at PNC Arena.
Beyond that, there are sizable differences in the situations facing the teams.
While the Penguins (36-14-8) have gone a couple of games without winning, they hold the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
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The Hurricanes (24-23-8) are in a desperate mode, rapidly tumbling from close to playoff position to owning the fewest points in the conference.
It might take a significant winning streak to push the Hurricanes back into the playoff conversation.
“I don’t think you can hope that that’s going to happen,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “You’ve got to make that happen.”
The Penguins have been in a particularly busy stretch, so monitoring the energy level has been among coach Mike Sullivan’s tasks.
“We’ve got a great strength and conditioning staff that advises us on the type of practices we run and how we’re trying to prepare these guys to play,” Sullivan said.
Perhaps with that in mind, the Penguins didn’t practice Monday, but they’ll have things to address nonetheless. In an overtime loss to Columbus and a setback to Detroit in their last two games, they’ve been outscored by a combined 7-3.
That’s a drop-off from the team’s normal pace that has produced an NHL-high 202 goals this season. Pittsburgh completed a stretch of four games in six days, so averting slippage is something to be mindful of.
“We’re looking for solutions out there,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got to find ways to be successful through these types of challenges.”
After this game, the Penguins are off for three days before an outdoor game Saturday against Philadelphia at Heinz Field. That marks the longest layoff for the team for the remainder of the season.
The Hurricanes have failed to win in both of their outings since coming off their “bye week” without a game for five days.
“I don’t think we had enough fire,” Peters said.
The Hurricanes are 0-3-1 in their last four games overall.
“You want to play and you want to win,” Carolina center Jordan Staal said, noting that there have been a strong period or two in some games. “It’s not good enough.”
Pittsburgh is 13-5-1 against other members of the Metropolitan Division, reflecting the best record for any team in the division against the rivals.
“It will be a good test for us,” Staal said. “It will a better challenge for us and (a chance) to make a statement that we’re going to work.”
Nothing is likely to come easy for the Hurricanes. Pittsburgh is 12 of 12 on penalty kills across the last four games.
Pittsburgh has won both meetings this season with the Hurricanes. They’ll collide again in April.
The Penguins should have center Matt Cullen in the lineup against one of his former teams. He was out with a foot injury and missed last month’s meeting in Raleigh.
This is the middle game of Carolina’s five-game homestand. Three of the seven regulation losses at home have come in a span of the past month.
Penguins left winger Carl Hagelin will play in his 400th NHL game Tuesday night. His first game with Pittsburgh came in January 2016 against Carolina.
Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey is set to appear in his 300th game with the team.