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Thursday, December 4th (All times eastern)

Pittsburgh Penguins (14-6-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (12-11-2), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes will begin a second era with Paul Maurice as their head coach when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at RBC Center.

The Hurricanes announced the coaching change on Wednesday, replacing Peter Laviolette with his predecessor. Maurice will return to the job he held for seven full seasons and parts of two others before Laviolette took over 30 games into the 2003-04 campaign. In addition, Ron Francis has been named an associate coach.

Carolina has lost four of its last five games to fall to 12-11-2 for the season -- good enough for second place in the Southeast Division. The Hurricanes, despite a pair of winning records, have failed to reach the playoffs in each of the last two seasons after winning the Stanley Cup under Laviolette's watch in the spring of 2006.

Laviolette's final game with the Hurricanes was Sunday's home test against Anaheim. The Ducks won that one as Rob Niedermayer netted a pair of third- period goals to lead Anaheim to the 4-1 decision.

Matt Cullen provided the only offense for the Hurricanes. Starting netminder Cam Ward stopped 12-of-13 shots in the first period before leaving due to a groin injury. Michael Leighton stepped in and allowed three goals on 14 shots for the loss.

Ward will sit out tonight and could miss a few games. Justin Peters has been recalled from the team's AHL affiliate in Albany to serve in a backup role to Leighton for the time being.

Tonight marks the second test of a four-game homestand for the Hurricanes, who are 6-7-0 as the host club this season. Carolina has dropped three straight at the RBC Center.

Pittsburgh is currently second in the Atlantic Division with 32 points, but has lost two of three and three of its last five games. The Pens visited the New York Rangers, who hold first place in the division, on Wednesday and were dealt a shootout loss.

Nikolai Zherdev netted the game-winner in the shootout, as the Rangers edged Pittsburgh, 3-2, at Madison Square Garden.

After Markus Naslund scored on the opening shot for New York, Miroslav Satan failed for Pittsburgh. Zherdev beat Dany Sabourin with a high backhander on the Rangers' second shootout chance, then Pittsburgh's Kris Letang beat Henrik Lundqvist.

Fredrik Sjostrom eventually iced the game for the Blueshirts with his wrister.

Mark Eaton and Jordan Staal tallied for the Penguins. Sabourin, who continues to fill in as Pittsburgh's starter in the absence of the injured Marc-Andre Fleury, stopped 25 shots in the loss.

The Penguins held a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but New York would tie the game and send it to overtime on Petr Prucha's tally with 5:57 left in regulation.

Pittsburgh, which has identical 7-3-2 records at home and on the road, is playing the middle portion of a three-game road trip tonight. The Pens will cap the swing Saturday in Ottawa.

The Penguins beat the Hurricanes, 4-1, in the first of four meetings between the clubs on October 23 in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has won three of the last four encounters overall in the series, but has dropped four in a row and seven of its previous eight in Raleigh.

12/04 10:47:34 ET


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