Penguins-Hurricanes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 02, 2011
For the second time in as many games, the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to beat a team with a new coach. The Penguins look to secure a winning road trip Saturday night by keeping the struggling Carolina Hurricanes winless under Kirk Muller. Backed by a solid defensive effort, Pittsburgh (15-7-4) improved to 2-1-0 on a four-game trek with a 2-1 win over Washington on Thursday. Though the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins tallied their fewest goals in a win this season, they held the struggling Capitals to 17 shots and kept them winless since Dale Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau as coach. "I think any time you can keep that team under 20 shots, you're playing well defensively but you're also playing with the puck and going the other way," coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins' official website. Pittsburgh now faces Carolina (8-15-4), which is 0-2-0 since Muller replaced the fired Paul Maurice earlier this week. The Hurricanes have dropped a season-high five in a row since winning 4-2 at Philadelphia on Nov. 21. "No one said this is going to change overnight," Muller said. "We've got to do baby steps." Though the Hurricanes beat the Penguins 5-3 at home on Nov. 12, they did not have to face Sidney Crosby. Pittsburgh is 4-1-1 since the superstar's return from an 11-month absence with a concussion. The Penguins won Thursday despite Crosby being held without a point for the second time this season. "You play to win," said Crosby, who has two goals and nine assists in six games. "I had a few chances but they kept a pretty tight seal on things, and when teams do that, you have to capitalize. Unfortunately, I didn't. But we did a good job and played a good game." Crosby has nine goals and 24 assists in 24 career games versus Carolina, including playoffs. Chris Kunitz, who scored Thursday's winner early in the third period, has three goals and two assists in his last four contests against the Hurricanes. Carolina has yielded 18 goals over the last five games while mired in its longest skid since Nov. 23-30, 2009. Cam Ward made 22 saves Thursday but allowed three goals in the second period to erase an early 2-1 lead in a 5-3 home loss to the New York Rangers. "It's going to take a little time," Muller said. "They're trying, but there's a couple little situations where there was some confusion. And then there's the other part where you just can't get beat one-on-one." Jeff Skinner scored his team-leading 11th goal and Eric Staal added two assists Thursday for the Hurricanes. Some poor production on the power play has plagued the Hurricanes, who are 1 for 22 over the last five games. Carolina went 0 for 4 with the man advantage against Pittsburgh last month, but Skinner had a goal with two assists and Staal added one of each. Ward, who has started every game during Carolina's skid, has stopped 70 of 74 shots while winning two straight against the Penguins following a personal seven-game losing streak - including playoffs - to Pittsburgh.
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