Streaking Pens head to Carolina (Feb 22, 2018)

February 22, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes can both claim to have had strong recent stretches with some of their performances.

But the Penguins have more to show for it, putting the Hurricanes in a more challenging situation entering Friday night's matchup at PNC Arena.

The Hurricanes have lost three games in a row.

Both teams have been off since Sunday, so they should be fresh and ready to go.

"It's an unusual part of the schedule," Carolina center Jordan Staal said.

The Penguins are riding a five-game winning streak -- and things could be getting even better.

A couple of injured players have worked their way back and could be ready to rejoin the Pittsburgh lineup.

Right winger Patric Hornqvist, who missed eight games since he last played Feb. 2, had a strong practice Thursday.

"All signs look positive at this point," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "We thought he looked good in the practice."

Right winger Tom Kuhnhackl, who has been out for six games with a lower-body injury, also will be on the weekend trip.

When and if they're ready to play, that will create some decisions.

"Obviously, when we're completely healthy the coaching staff has some very difficult decisions," Sullivan said.

With games on back-to-back nights, there could be a chance to ease the workload for some players. The Penguins visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

"We have to prepare ourselves to be the best we can be each and every night," Sullivan said. "I always think back-to-backs start with a mindset. ... Obviously, the stakes are high this time of year. Every game is so critically important to help us get where we want to go."

The Hurricanes are 15-10-6 at home, but their next three after Pittsburgh's visit will be on the road.

This will be the 10th and final February home game for Carolina.

"We didn't make as much hay as we would have liked, not as many points as we would have liked," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "We're right there in every game."

Carolina has posted 40 or more shots in three of its past four games. Those chances haven't translated to huge offensive numbers otherwise.

"You see the result if you don't execute," Peters said.

So the Hurricanes are aiming to get some of their mojo back.

"It's maybe a little more frustrating for some guys," said Staal, a former Penguin. "They're hard-working games and we've worked hard. We're right there."

Penguins right winger Phil Kessel is riding a bit of a high after the big role his sister, Amanda Kessel, had in the U.S. Olympic women's team's gold medal victory. He also could be worn out a bit as he stayed up until the wee hours to watch the shootout win against Canada.

"It's a special accomplishment," said Phil Kessel, who has been part of two Stanley Cup championship teams. "It has been a good run (for the family)."

On Thursday, the Hurricanes recalled right winger Josh Jooris from the American Hockey League's Charlotte Checkers. He has played in 30 games for the Hurricanes this season.

This will be the last of four meetings between the Metropolitan Division rivals. Carolina is 2-1-0 in the first three, which were played in a span of less than four weeks.

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