Hurricanes-Penguins Preview

Forward Pascal Dupuis isn’t letting the Pittsburgh Penguins use

the absences of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as an excuse for

going into an offensive rut.

In their first game without their All-Star duo, it looked like a

pretty valid one.

The Penguins try to bounce back from being shut out for the

second time this month Saturday night against the visiting Carolina

Hurricanes, who wrap up a rough five-game stretch against teams

above them in the Eastern Conference.

Just when it looked like Pittsburgh (29-15-4) was getting the

hang of playing without Crosby, it found out after Tuesday’s 4-1

win over Detroit that Malkin was dealing with a left knee

injury.

That kept him and Crosby, who has a concussion, out of the

lineup Thursday against New Jersey. It was the first time in 437

games since Malkin entered the league that the Penguins were

without both former Art Ross Trophy winners.

Pittsburgh didn’t fare well Thursday, managing just 23 shots

against Martin Brodeur in a 2-0 loss, its second shutout in six

games.

“You can’t use that (as an excuse),” Dupuis told the league’s

official website. “It’s the NHL, and injuries are part of the game.

I think we’re a good enough team in here to have a better

performance than we had tonight. I don’t think we were ready.”

Coach Dan Bylsma said Friday that Crosby is “progressing, but

not symptom free,” while Malkin is dealing with a sinus infection

in addition to a sore knee.

That makes it extremely likely that both will be out again

Saturday – bad news considering the duo accounted for six of

Pittsburgh’s seven goals in two wins against Carolina (23-18-6)

earlier this season.

“We don’t like seeing guys out – especially our top guys – but

if we do play our system right, we can make sure that no matter

who’s in the lineup, we’re winning,” defenseman Paul Martin

said.

The Hurricanes have been about as healthy as a team can hope to

be, with Jussi Jokinen’s six-game absence earlier this month the

only time one of their top six scorers has been out of the

lineup.

Jokinen, who had two goals and two assists in a 5-4 shootout

loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, has been on quite a tear since

returning Jan. 11. He has six goals and three assists in his last

six games and scored the winner in Thursday’s 4-1 victory against

the New York Rangers.

Coach Paul Maurice was rather pleased with the way his team

responded after being outscored 10-2 in a home-and-home series with

Boston earlier in the week.

“What I thought you saw tonight was a real good look at the

leadership in our room,” Maurice said.

Carolina pulled within two points of Atlanta for the eighth

playoff spot in the East, and even with Pittsburgh missing Crosby

and Malkin, Saturday should provide a solid test. The Hurricanes

are 6-11-3 against the eight teams ahead of them in the

standings.

Saturday will be Carolina’s first look this season at

Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal, who has played nine games since making

his season debut following hand surgery.

Staal has three goals and three assists in his last four games,

but he only has two goals and four assists in 16 contests against

the team his brother captains.

Eric Staal has 26 points in 25 regular-season games versus

Pittsburgh. When he scores a goal in the series, Carolina is

8-1-0.