Season Series: This will be the third of four meetings between the Eastern Conference foes. Carolina prevailed in the first go-around, 5-3, while Pittsburgh responded in the most recent meeting, 3-2.
Big Story: The Carolina Hurricanes skate into Pittsburgh looking to grab a third straight victory, while the Penguins are currently riding a three-game winning streak and aim to start the post-holiday stretch with a victory.
Hurricanes: Glance at the NHL standings and you'll find Carolina's name near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and Southeast Division. Despite the struggles this season, the team has shown a great deal of resolve of late. The 'Canes have lost just once in regulation in their past six outings and have the chance to salvage the first half of the NHL season with a nice run to close out the month of December. That effort began Friday night when the Canes edged Ottawa, 2-1. It was followed up with a solid outing against New Jersey, which resulted in a 4-2 win, including a goal that eventually was credited to goaltender Cam Ward. When Carolina visits Pittsburgh, an important two points will be on the line, as will a chance to grab three straight wins.
"I told (Bryan) Allen that I've got more than him right now," Ward joked of his goal after the game. "At the end of the day, it's a big win."
Penguins: Meanwhile, the Penguins hope to continue a solid stretch of hockey, having won three straight games entering the Christmas break. Four in a row stares the Penguins in the face when Carolina comes to town. In addition to feeling good about their game of late, the Pens will be a refreshed team, after three-day break. They're also getting healthier, as Zbynek Michalek returned to the lineup against Winnipeg after dealing with a concussion. All that, coupled with the dominant play of star Evgeni Malkin, and the Penguins appear to be poised for a solid outing and a continued climb up the Eastern Conference standings.
Who's Hot: The Canes have relied on the services of Tuomo Ruutu, who has a five-game point streak going, in which he has six points. Malkin has been on fire of late for the Penguins, as he has amassed 12 points in his past five games.
Stat Pack: Carolina has the fewest road wins in the Eastern Conference (4).
Puck Drop: Penguins forward James Neal on winning heading into the break: "It's especially nice going into the break with a win. It's a totally different game now. We've got to keep being consistent, keep playing the right way, and keep this streak going."