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Penguins vs. Hurricanes Scouting Report

Friday, 12.2.2011 / 9:00 PM ET / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins vs. Hurricanes Scouting Report
Pittsburgh Penguins
Home: 8-1-2-18
Road: 7-6-2-16

WHEN: Dec. 3, 2011 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: RBC Center
ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins 24/7 Radio, 105.9 FM
Carolina Hurricanes
Home: 5-8-2-12

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes 






Tuomo Ruutu
C  -  #15
  7 Goals
  6 Assists
  13 Points
• Energetic, physical presence, who led the Hurricanes and ranked second in the NHL in hits (309) in 2010-11, currently paces Carolina with 61 checks through 27 games.

• Not only is Ruutu a tough competitor, but he possesses odes of talent and plays with both skill and confidence – reaching career highs in both assists (38) and points (57) last season.

• Is the younger brother of former Penguin Jarkko Ruutu, who was one of the first players Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero signed when he arrived in the Steel City five years ago.
Eric Staal
C  -  #12
  5 Goals
  9 Assists
  14 Points
• Hurricanes captain has points in three straight games (1G-3A) after getting his season off to an uncharacteristically slow start.

• The five-time 30-plus goal scorer’s struggles in that department hasn’t been for lack of shooting, as he leads the ‘Canes with 92 pucks to the net.

• Tends to thrive against his brother Jordan’s Penguins, as he has 13 goals and 30 points in 28 career games vs. Pittsburgh – his second-highest total against a non-division opponent.
Joni Pitkanen
D  -  #25
  4 Goals
  2 Assists
6 Points
•  Returned to the lineup for his 500th career game Nov. 27 vs. Ottawa after missing eight straight contests with a lower-body injury.

• The sizeable, strong defenseman (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) has plenty of offensive talent and quarterbacks Carolina’s power play – ranking fifth in the league with 4:49 minutes on the man-advantage per game.

Thrives under a heavy workload, as he currently paces the Hurricanes with 23:25 minutes per game and has led his team in average time on ice four of the last
five seasons.
The Penguins will battle a team with a new head coach for the second-straight game when they face Carolina on Saturday, as Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford relieved Paul Maurice of his head coaching duties on Monday and replaced him with Kirk Muller.

Muller spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens before being named head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals in June. Known as an excellent communicator, motivator and an outstanding strategist, Muller’s role with the Canadiens encompassed many duties that might fall under the responsibilities of a head coach in some organizations.

The 45-year-old Muller knows the game well, being a nine-time 20-goal scorer and five-time 30-goal man through his 19 NHL seasons – and his strategy for the Hurricanes is having them play high-tempo, fast-paced game focused on execution.

Hopefully Muller will be the catalyst that reverses the Hurricanes’ fortunes, as it’s desperately needed: the ‘Canes have lost five straight games, 12 of their last 15 and rank 14th of out 15 teams in the Eastern Conference with just 20 points.

They rank at or near the bottom in many statistical categories but they’ve been especially struggling defensively, allowing a league-worst 89 goals against. All-Star goaltender Cam Ward has shown flashes of brilliance – like his excellent performance that propelled his team to a 5-3 win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 12 – but outings like that haven’t occurred as often as they normally do for the talented netminder.

To be fair, he’s been shouldering quite a load – playing in 23 of the Canes’ 27 games – and isn’t getting much of help from the guys in front of him. Sophomore center Jeff Skinner continues to shine, as the 19-year-old scored his 11th goal of the season on Thursday in a 5-3 loss to the Rangers. But he’s virtually the only player on Carolina’s roster that’s been consistently producing, and that will need to change for the Hurricanes to reverse their fortunes.
  • Muller is in his first season as an NHL head coach, having previously served as a head coach for the Milwaukee Admirals in the American Hockey League (AHL). The Kingston, Ont., native had a record of 10-6-0 with Milwaukee during the 2011-12, after taking the job as head coach for the Nashville Predators’ top minor-league affiliate in July 2011.
  • Prior to joining the Admirals, Muller spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens, helping the Habs reach the playoffs four consecutive seasons, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010. Muller worked extensively with the Habs’ penalty killing unit throughout his tenure in Montreal, helping it finish in the top half of the League in each season under his watch.
  • The Penguins enter Saturday’s game having won three of their last four games. Since Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup on Nov. 21 the Penguins have gone 4-1-1 in six games. During that span they are outscoring teams, 22-14.
  • The Penguins have won four of their last five games against Eastern Conference foes after beginning the season just 5-6-1 against the East.
  • James Neal enters Saturday’s game with a team-leading 14 goals – the fourth-highest total in the NHL. Neal, who has points in 19 of Pittsburgh’s 26 games, leads the NHL with seven power-play goals and 106 shots.
  • Neal should be primed for a big night tonight both points and shots wise. That’s because against the Capitals he was held scoreless with just two shots on goal. In the previous six instances where he has been held scoreless, Neal has responded the next game with points in five of the six games (3G-2A).




2010-11 STAT CHART

D Kris Letang, broken nose
D Ben Lovejoy, broken wrist
D Zbynek Michalek, headache symptoms
D Brian Strait, hyper-extended elbow
Neal (14) Skinner (11)
Letang (16) Skinner (12)
Neal (25)
Skinner (23)
Asham (33) Ruutu (26)
Dupuis (11) Gleason (2)
Neal (7) Staal/Ponikarovsky (3)
Four with (1)
Sutter (2)
Fleury (14-4-2)
Ward (8-12-3)
Fleury (2.11) Ward (3.16)
Fleury (.923) Ward (.902)

D Jay Harrison, upper-body





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Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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