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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, December 18th (All times eastern)

Pittsburgh Penguins (8-16-4-2) at Carolina Hurricanes (8-12-8-2), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes move on under new head coach Peter Laviolette tonight when they welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to the RBC Center.

Laviolette took the reins on Monday after longtime coach Paul Maurice was fired. Maurice, who had been with the franchise since taking over the Hartford Whalers 12 games into the 1995-96 season, was relieved of his duties after the Canes' 8-12-8-2 start. The team sits fourth in the Southeast Division standings with 26 points -- 10 behind first-place Atlanta.

The 39-year-old Laviolette spent two seasons as coach of the Isles after a successful stint in the American Hockey League. As a rookie benchman in 2001-02, Laviolette led New York to its first playoff berth since 1994. However, after his sophomore campaign, which ended with a first-round loss to top-seeded Ottawa, he was let loose in favor of current coach Steve Stirling.

"I look at Long Island as a positive experience and something that I can draw from and use to my advantage down here," Laviolette said upon taking the job.

Laviolette's most glaring task will be to find a way to score goals, as Carolina ranks last in the NHL with 56 tallies.

The Hurricanes have lost their last two tilts and finished their recent road trip 1-1-0-2. On Sunday they dropped a 2-1 overtime decision in Vancouver, as the Canucks' Markus Naslund scored with just 47 seconds left in the extra session to decide things.

Eric Staal scored the lone goal for Carolina, which is just 1-2-1-2 over its last six games. Kevin Weekes started in net for the Hurricanes, stopping 22 of the 23 shots he faced, but was forced to leave the game with cramps. Jamie Storr replaced him in the third period, and surrendered one goal on nine shots.

Carolina, 1-1-3-1 in its last six home games, will visit Boston on Saturday.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has won its last two contests on the heels of a five- game losing streak (0-4-0-1). On Tuesday the Penguins posted a 2-1 victory over visiting Buffalo. Tomas Surovy scored twice and Brian Holzinger added a goal and an assist to lead the effort.

Aleksey Morozov assisted on three goals and Milan Kraft added a pair of helpers for the Penguins, while Dick Tarnstrom and Matt Murley also scored. Sebastien Caron finished with 23 saves for the victory.

The Penguins, who have lost seven straight on the road, will host Atlanta on Saturday.

Carolina is 1-0-1 against Pittsburgh this season, and 5-2-3 in the last 10 meetings. The Pens are 1-2-2 in their last five trips to Carolina.

12/18 10:22:26 ET

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