Penguins-Hurricanes Preview

Frustration is mounting for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they’re

hoping a four-game road trip can provide some relief. Facing the

Carolina Hurricanes, however, may not help.

The Penguins attempt to halt a three-game slide when they face

the Hurricanes at RBC Center on Saturday night.

Pittsburgh (5-5-1) is 2-4-0 at new Consol Energy Center after

falling 3-2 to Philadelphia on Friday. It was the Penguins’ third

loss in a row following a four-game winning streak. They haven’t

endured a slide of this length since last season’s high of five

straight defeats Dec. 27-Jan. 3.

The Penguins’ punchless power play is becoming a serious issue.

The unit has come up empty on 20 chances over the last four games,

including six Friday.

Pittsburgh also showed some sloppiness by getting whistled for

too many men on the ice Friday, leading to the eventual winning

goal for the Flyers.

“It’s obviously frustrating,” captain Sidney Crosby said,

referring not only to the power play but Friday’s result.

The Penguins are struggling in the second period, getting

outscored 4-0 over the last two games while relinquishing leads in

the process.

“That’s kind of been our story for a little while, we’re not

following it up,” center Mike Rupp said.

Crosby, the team leader with six goals and 13 points, has two

assists during the losing streak. The superstar center, who tied

for the league lead with a career-high 51 goals last season, had

five goals in the three previous contests.

His lack of scoring may only continue against the Hurricanes

(5-4-0), who have held him to one goal and three assists in the

last six meetings. Pittsburgh is 1-2-3 during that span, going

1-0-2 at RBC Center.

The Penguins are likely to give backup goaltender Brent Johnson

the start after Marc-Andre Fleury dropped to 1-5-0 with a 3.35

goals-against average following Friday’s loss.

Johnson might be the biggest surprise for Pittsburgh, going

4-0-1 with a 1.39 GAA.

The Hurricanes are looking to win consecutive games for the

first time since opening the season with back-to-back wins.

They’ve traded wins and losses for six games, and Erik Cole kept

that trend going by scoring with 3:59 to play to secure a 4-3 road

victory over the New York Rangers on Friday.

Jeff Skinner’s emergence is providing a spark for Carolina. The

18-year-old right wing, drafted seventh overall in June, turned in

the best performance of his young career against the Rangers by

scoring two goals and assisting on Cole’s game-winner.

“It was pretty cool,” Skinner said of his New York debut.

Carolina may opt to give Cam Ward a fourth consecutive start

after he made 40 saves Friday. He’s won three of his last four

games behind a 2.49 GAA, and is 3-0-1 with a 1.71 GAA in his last

four meetings with Pittsburgh.

Backup Justin Peters has also had success against the Penguins,

winning both starts with a 3.07 GAA.