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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, April 4th (All times eastern)

Pittsburgh Penguins (42-27-8) at Carolina Hurricanes (43-28-7), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - No team in the NHL is hotter than the Carolina Hurricanes right now, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are darn close.

The two scorching squads will battle for playoff positions in tonight's key showdown from the RBC Center, where the Hurricanes will try to extend a franchise-record home winning streak.

Carolina has put itself on solid footing in regards to obtaining a postseason spot in the Eastern Conference by winning its last seven games and producing an excellent 11-1-2 record since the beginning of March. Pittsburgh has been equally as outstanding over the past month, having amassed a stellar 13-1-2 mark over its last 16 games and posting wins in six of its seven most recent tilts.

The Hurricanes enter this important matchup in fifth place in the East with 93 points, one better than the Penguins and one behind fourth-seeded Philadelphia. However, both Pittsburgh and the Flyers have a game in hand on Carolina, which has just four regular-season tilts remaining on the schedule.

Carolina's surge has been fueled by a dominant stretch at the RBC Center, where Paul Maurice's club won its 10th straight game with Thursday's 4-2 decision over the New York Rangers. Chad LaRose and Rod Brind'Amour scored within a 28-second span in the third period to help the Hurricanes establish a new team best for consecutive victories at home.

LaRose finished with two goals in the landmark win, while goaltender Cam Ward did his part by stopping 36-of-38 shots on the evening.

Carolina has not lost in Raleigh since a February 17 setback to Boston and improved to 24-13-1 at home with Thursday's triumph. The Hurricanes are also on their longest overall winning streak since rattling off nine victories in a row from December 31, 2005-January 19, 2006.

Brind'Amour's tally gave the veteran centerman points in seven straight games, with the 38-year-old having notched three goals and seven assists over that span.

Pittsburgh kept up its torrid recent play with Wednesday's 6-1 home rout of the slumping New Jersey Devils, the Penguins' third straight win. Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz led the charge with a goal and an assist each, while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 24-of-25 shots faced.

Crosby has been instrumental in Pittsburgh's playoff march. Since returning from a groin injury that kept him out for more than a week, the 2007 Hart Trophy winner has racked up seven goals and 13 assists in 12 games and is riding a 16-game point streak. The superstar center has totaled 27 points (9 goals, 18 assists) during that tear.

Teammate Evgeni Malkin, the NHL's leader with 108 points, contributed a goal to Wednesday's win and has registered a point in six consecutive outings. The Russian standout has four goals and seven assists during that time.

The Penguins wrapped up a successful eight-game homestand in which the club posted a 6-1-1 record with their victory over the Devils. Pittsburgh will play four of its five remaining tests on the road, including visits to playoff- hopeful Florida and Tampa Bay following tonight's clash.

Pittsburgh is 18-14-5 on the road for the season.

The Pens won their first two encounters with the Hurricanes this season, including a 5-2 ousting at the RBC Center in December that stopped a four-game slide as the visitor in this series. However, Carolina returned the favor with a 2-1 decision in the Steel City on January 20.

04/04 10:52:16 ET

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