The Pittsburgh Penguins have won all four of their road contests this season, but the Carolina Hurricanes might have a different four-game set in their memory banks as they meet the defending Stanley Cup champions at RBC Center.
The Penguins try to set a franchise record by opening the season with a fifth straight road win Wednesday night when they visit Raleigh for the first time since sweeping the Hurricanes out of the Eastern Conference finals in May.
Pittsburgh (5-1-0) rallied from a 2-0 series deficit against Washington to beat the Capitals in seven games in the semifinals last spring, then used that momentum to quickly oust Carolina.
Evgeni Malkin had nine points - including six goals - and Sidney Crosby chipped in seven points in the four-game sweep, the first suffered by the Hurricanes franchise since Montreal ushered the Hartford Whalers out in four games 20 years earlier.
The Penguins went on to beat Detroit in seven games and claim their third Cup, and so far they've looked as good defending it as they did winning it - even when their stars aren't scoring.
Malkin and Crosby combined for four goals and six assists in Pittsburgh's first three road wins, but were held off the scoresheet Monday against Ottawa. Tyler Kennedy, though, scored twice - including the game-winner - in the Penguins' 4-1 victory, giving him an NHL-best three winners and tying him with Crosby for the team goal-scoring lead with four.
"He's playing great for us and that whole line has really been great," Crosby said of Kennedy, who's been flanked on the third line by Matt Cooke and Craig Adams. "You could see the chemistry kind of start last season and you see it right off the bat here this season, starting where they left off last year. ... That's huge for us and we really pride ourselves on our depth and having everyone contribute, and they've just really added to that."
Kennedy had five goals during the Penguins' Cup run, including one in a 7-4 Game 2 win against Carolina.
The Hurricanes (2-3-0) will certainly have their attention focused on Malkin and Crosby, but coach Paul Maurice's team will have one major disadvantage as defenseman Joni Pitkanen will miss this game as he continues to recover from a surgically repaired knee.
Eric Staal, meanwhile, missed practice Tuesday with an unspecified ailment after leaving the ice early at Monday's skate.
"We just want to make sure feels 100 percent," Maurice told the Hurricanes' official Web site. "He plays so much for us. He was a little tight in practice yesterday, so we figure another day and he'll be ready to go. We expect him to play tomorrow."
Staal figures to see significant time on Carolina's power play against his brother Jordan - one of the Penguins' primary penalty killers - and that's the only place Eric has been effective so far offensively.
The Hurricanes were 2 for 26 with the man advantage before Saturday's road game against Tampa Bay, and though Staal scored one of their two power-play goals, that wasn't enough in a 5-2 loss.
"We feel we have a really good team, but we still haven't gotten consistent 60-minute game," said Carolina left wing Jussi Jokinen, who has two goals and three assists in his past three games. "We need to be better."
Goaltender Cam Ward is 5-0-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average in his last five regular-season home games against Pittsburgh.