The Staal brothers battle, previewing Canes vs. Pens

Hurricanes
Hurricanes

The Pittsburgh Penguins look to make it three in a row on Thursday night when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Mellon Arena.

Carolina is currently 3-1-1 and sits tied for first place in the Southeast Division with the Washington Capitals.

Glaring problems in Carolina’s special teams play is something the Penguins need to take advantage of, give the inability to develop legitimate pressure during five-on-five play.

The Canes are killing a lowly 76.9% of their penalties, while the Pens are clipping at a rate of 21.6% on the power play — fourth best in the league.

Carolina doesn’t have that impressive of numbers offensively either.  The leading scorer, Ray Whitney, leads the team in scoring with one goal and five assists.  This could be a perfect game for the Pens to get their defense going.

All three of Carolina’s wins, over Florida, Tampa Bay and Anaheim, came against teams with losing records.  Nevertheless, they are winning the winnable games early in the season.

Michael Leighton
Michael Leighton

Michael Leighton has been impressive in goal so far for the Hurricanes, winning both of his starts and registering a 1.92 goals against average.  Last season’s AHL Goalie of the Year, Leighton is 0-2-0 in his career against Pittsburgh.

As for the Penguins, it is likely that Marc-Andre Fleury will be back in net at the Mellon Arena on Thursday.  Though Sabourin had an outstanding start, I don’t expect Michel Therrien to start him again over an equally ‘hot’ goalie in Fleury.

Fleury has struggled against the Canes in his career, going 1-2-1 in five games.  He has allowed an average of 3.25 goal a game in those five games.

Jordan and Eric Staal
Jordan and Eric Staal

The biggest storyline going in to the game is Jordan and Eric Staal facing off against each other.  Thus far, Eric leads the two in scoring with three goals and two assists.  Jordan has just two points on two assists in seven games this year.

My Take

Though only allowing one goal, the Pittsburgh defense was highly aided by goaltender Dany Sabourin, who stopped 35 of 36 shots in the 2-1 win in Boston.

Clearing the defensive zone and transferring the puck to the break is still an adventure, and with Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney out for an extended period of time the current unit must do better in order for the team to survive a strong Atlantic Division.

Also, the Pens must hold Carolina to under 30 shots for the game.  A shot advantage is something that has been non-existent for the Pens so far this season.

Prediction

Pittsburgh 3 – Carolina 1

Chris @ Pittsburgh Puck Talk

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