NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, February 25th (All times eastern)
Pittsburgh Penguins (36-20-6) at Carolina Hurricanes (28-24-9), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The struggling Pittsburgh Penguins brought Alex Kovalev back into the fold on Thursday and they should have their latest trade acquisition on the ice tonight at Carolina's RBC Center.
Pittsburgh acquired the 38-year-old Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick. The Russian sniper has 14 goals and 27 points in 54 games this season and has been playing some of his most productive hockey of the year in February. After going without a point in five January games, Kovalev has six goals and three assists in 10 contests this month.
This is Kovalev's second stint in the Steel City after spending parts of five seasons (1998-2003) there earlier in his career. Carolina also brought back a former player via trade on Thursday, acquiring winger Cory Stillman from Florida for forward Ryan Carter and a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft. Stillman was one of the Hurricanes' heroes during their 2006 Stanley Cup championship run.
Pittsburgh's hope is that Kovalev can give a boost to a team that has lost seven of their last nine games and has scored a total of 16 goals over that span.
Part of the reason the Pens are having a hard time scoring, of course, is the fact the club is without both Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee). Crosby is sidelined indefinitely and Malkin is out for the remainder of the year.
Kovalev joins forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen as the newest members of the Penguins. Pittsburgh acquired Neal and Niskanen earlier this week from Dallas and sent defenseman Alex Goligoski to the Stars. Both players made their Pittsburgh debuts in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime loss to visiting San Jose.
In addition to the absence of Crosby and Malkin, the Pens are expected to be without defensemen Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik this evening. Martin is questionable for tonight after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury, while Orpik is expected to be sidelined for approximately four weeks with a broken finger sustained in Wednesday's loss.
Despite losing seven out of nine games, the Pens are still seeded fourth in the East with 78 points and they are also eight points behind Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Pittsburgh was able to gain a point in the recent setback to the Sharks, but San Jose picked up the extra point after Patrick Marleau scored with just four seconds left in overtime.
Tyler Kennedy had both goals for the Penguins, who fell to 2-5-2 in their last nine contests. Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves in defeat.
"We're happy that we got the point, but of course we wanted two points," said Kennedy, who has seven goals and two assists over his last 11 games. "I think our team battled hard and it shows a little character that we battled back."
Neal had two shots in 20 1/2 minutes of ice-time while Niskanen had three shots in 10 1/2 minutes of action.
Tonight's test marks the start of a five-game road trip for the Penguins, who have lost four of their last five on the road and are 16-9-4 as the guest this season.
Carolina, meanwhile, is also hoping for a boost from its acquisition, as Stillman is expected suit up tonight for the Hurricanes. Stillman had 26 points in 25 games for the Hurricanes during the 2006 playoffs, but was traded to Ottawa during the 2007-08 campaign.
"This was a good opportunity for us to add some experience," said Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford. "Cory adds more depth to our forward lines and we are familiar with what he is capable of doing offensively."
In 44 games with the Panthers this season, Stillman has seven goals and 16 assists.
The Hurricanes have dropped three of their last four games and have just three wins in 11 games (3-5-3) this month. Carolina is still holding onto the eighth and final playoff seed in the East and is currently three points ahead of Buffalo for that distinction.
Carolina was dealt a shootout loss in its most recent outing, as Wojtek Wolski scored the game-winning goal for the New York Rangers in their 4-3 victory at RBC Center.
Jussi Jokinen scored twice for the Hurricanes and Jay Harrison added the other goal. Cam Ward allowed three goals on 46 shots in the losing effort.
The Hurricanes, who are 15-10-3 as the host this year, will complete a four- game homestand tonight.
Carolina has lost all three meetings with the Pens this year and Pittsburgh can sweep the season series tonight. Despite going winless against the Pens so far this year, the Hurricanes have still won five of the last nine encounters.
02/25 10:53:36 ET