December 28, 2016 @ 7:00 PM - PPG Paints Arena
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh
The Penguins will look to close out the month of December strong, and it's been a good one for the team so far, as a 10-1-2 record has helped push Pittsburgh to second place in the entire NHL. After beating up on New Jersey in a home-and-home series, the Pens will return home to host another lower level divisional foe as the Hurricanes come to town for the first meeting between the two teams this year.
Cam Ward is in his 12th season with the Hurricanes, and as the longest tenured member of team since Eric Staal was traded away last year he's become synonymous with Carolina - below average, but capable of occasionally overachieving. He led the Canes to their only Stanley Cup title as a rookie in 2006, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy with a 2.14 GAA and 0.920 SV%, but he's been largely below average in the years since. However, at the age of 32, Ward is having a career year. His 2.24 GAA easily ranks as the best of his career, while his 0.918 SV% is second only to the 0.924 SV% he posted during the 2010-11 season. Making his year even more surprising is that Michael Leighton and Eddie Lack have combined for an abysmal 0.864 SV% and 3.69 GAA between the pipes.
Carolina has been a middle of the pack team offensively, ranking 17th in the league with 2.61 goals/game, but they've been a bit top heavy as a group. Victor Rask is fresh off a 6 year, $24 million contract that he signed as a RFA this offseason, and the 23-year-old Swede hasn't disappointed in his 3rd season. With 26 points (10g, 16a), Rask is second on the Hurricanes in scoring and is well on pace to best his career highs of 21 goals and 27 assists set last season. Jeff Skinner has been up and down during his NHL career, but coming off a solid 51 point effort (28g, 23a) the Hurricane winger is on pace for one of the best years of his career. Skinner leads Carolina with 27 points (13g, 14a) on the season, and if he maintains his current rate of scoring he'd set a career high with 68 points and notch his 3rd 30 goal season in seven years in the league.
- After taking an Andy Greene slap shot to the face in last night's game, Brian Dumoulin had surgery on his broken jaw that's expected to keep him out of the lineup for 6-8 weeks.
- With a power play goal early in the 1st period, Evgeni Malkin became the 9th Russian player to reach the 800 point mark in the NHL.