Hurricanes focused on Penguins with fathers in hand (Jan 20, 2017)

BY AP • January 19, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes will want to impress their fathers when they play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

The visiting Penguins will want to put another impressive performance on their portfolio prior to the All-Star break.

The teams meet at PNC Arena, where many fathers of Carolina players and staff will be on hand for an annual gathering. They'll also accompany the team to Saturday night's game at Columbus.

But the first order of business for the Hurricanes comes against Pittsburgh.

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said the focus should be on the game even with the associated activities.

"Stay true to your routine that works and don't deviate," he said. "You concentrate on the task at hand."

The Penguins are coming off their first road victory of 2017 by defeating Montreal 4-1 on Wednesday night. They've won two games in a row, realizing despite a wild game that included 15 goals (an 8-7 victory against Washington) earlier in the week that defense must be emphasized.

"It's the hard defensive two-way posture that really puts us over the top," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said.

Yet the Penguins realize that the way they produce offensively can create problems for opponents.

"If you're going to become a real competitive team, you have to have the ability to generate offense in different ways," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "I also think it's how you control momentum, how you control territory."

That's something the Hurricanes are aware of.

"They check real well and they don't give up much," Peters said. "They've got speed throughout their lineup on all four lines. They're not afraid to check for their chances and they're very, very deep."

This will mark the second of four meetings this season between the teams. The Penguins won 3-2 at home on Dec. 28.

The Hurricanes hold a four-game home-ice winning streak and they're 14-1-1 in their last 16 home games.

After an idle day following Tuesday night's loss at Columbus, Peters was encouraged.

"The guys were energized after a day off," he said.

Carolina will try to keep the Penguins off power plays. The Hurricanes are averaging a league-low 6:00 penalty minutes per game and they didn't take a penalty in last month's game at Pittsburgh.

Carolina is expected to go with Cam Ward for his 21st consecutive start in net. His backup will be Michael Leighton, who was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League on Thursday after Alex Nedeljkovic made his NHL debut in relief of Ward on Tuesday night.

Peters said he likes how Ward is handling the workload.

"He's fine," Peters said. "We need to play better in front of him, limit the quality of the shots. We were a step behind on a lot of those plays."

Penguins center Matt Cullen, a former Carolina player, sat out Wednesday's game in Montreal with a foot injury that could have him out of the lineup for a month. That was the first game he missed with the injury.

However, Penguins center Sidney Crosby is 12 away from 1,000 career points.



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