Carolina Hurricanes (6-12-3) at Pittsburgh Penguins (15-4-2)
|Date & Time||Friday November 28, 2014, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Pittsburgh Penguins / Carolina Hurricanes --- Over/Under:
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+. Start your 7-day FREE trial today!|
The Pittsburgh Penguins came away victorious on Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but head coach Mike Johnston wasn’t thrilled with his team’s performance. Blake Comeau registered the hat trick, including the game winning goal in overtime to lead the Penguins to a come from behind 4-3 victory over Toronto. Evgeni Malkin registered a goal and two assists and Sidney Crosby also chipped in with two helpers on the night. The comments after the game from Johnston were interesting but they were also very understandable. Johnston understands the job that he took over and he’s now at the helm of one of the many organizations in this league that has had a lot of regular season success the last few years but just hasn’t been able to put it together come playoff time. Johnston knows that his performance will not be judge on what this hockey club does during the regular season but how they perform in the post season. There’s too much talent on this Penguins team to worry about them making the playoffs, but sometimes that can be a challenge for a head coach. Talent can do a lot for a club in the regular season but it can’t get you through the rigors of a two month playoff run. There has been an element missing from this hockey club the last five years and it’s Johnston’s job to find out what that is and fix it. One can argue that the biggest problem has been in goal with Marc-Andre Fleury, but anyone who has watched knows that there were a lot of defensive issues as well. Picking up wins this time of year against mediocre clubs like the Maple Leafs is great, but it’s all about how it prepares the Penguins for the end of the year. With Crosby and Malkin healthy there’s no excuse for this team to finally get back to the Stanley Cup Finals this season. The Penguins will get another chance to hone their skills against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
It has been a real struggle in Carolina this season and after a very difficult start to the year it looked like the Hurricanes were starting to find their footing. After Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss in Florida against the Panthers however the Hurricanes have now lost six of their last seven games and sit one point out of last place in the Metropolitan Division standings with 15 points on the year. The stats aren’t pretty for this club as they’re 27th in the league in goals per game and 22nd in goals allowed. Center Riley Nash is the leading point scorer on this club with 15, four goals and 11 assists, and that just isn’t going to cut it. Eric Staal has 13 points in 16 games after returning from injury. Alexander Semin has been a complete non factor this year season and that’s something that can’t continue if the Hurricanes have any hopes of resurrecting what is beginning to look like another lost season. There has been a lot of turnover in Carolina in recent years and while it’s hard to be patient with a club that doesn’t seem to be progressing there’s also something to be said about the importance of stability and allowing coaches and players to really get a good feel for each other. Cam Ward has actually been respectable this season and that’s been a big problem in recent years for the Hurricanes. Now they just need to find a way to get the rest of the club going because at this rate they’re going to fall out of the playoff race before we even get to the New Year. This is going to be a good test for the Canes who get to face the best team in the Eastern Conference in a home-and-home set Friday and Saturday. The second game will be the beginning of a five game home stand where Carolina really needs to start making a move.
It’s hard to get a gauge on the Hurricanes right now but when it comes to the Penguins we know they just keep finding ways to win hockey games. There’s always a little bit of a struggle for the Penguins when they take on the Hurricanes but this should be one on Friday night they handle with ease.