Malkin, Pittsburgh tackle rising Carolina
The Penguins are not without their problems as the NHL closes in on the All-Star break. Fortunately for Mike Sullivan’s bunch, it’s producing more than enough offense to offset the bulk of those qualms.
Tonight, Pittsburgh will attempt to stay hot against Carolina. The Eastern Conference rivals drop the puck at 7 p.m. ET, with handicappers leaning heavily toward the visiting club. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Sidney Crosby & Co. odds of -130 to emerge victorious. Conversely, the Hurricanes represent +110 underdogs.
On Monday, the Pens took part in one of the zaniest regular-season contests in recent memory. They ultimately notched an 8-7 win over Metropolitan Division arch-nemesis Washington. Evgeni Malkin collected his 11th career hat trick, while Crosby added a goal and three assists.
Sullivan’s far from happy, however, with his squad’s defensive effort of late. Netminder Matt Murray is 3-2-0 with a 4.55 GAA and .847save percentage in his past five appearances. Worse yet, top blueliner Kris Letang could miss several more weeks due to a knee injury.
Can Bill Peters’ troops exploit such issues shortly? Carolina boasts one of the league’s best home records (15-4-1), so even an opponent of Pittsburgh’s caliber shouldn’t cause much unease at PNC Arena. Look for the ever-dependable Cam Ward, primed for his 21st straight start between the posts, to show the Canes the way again.
FRIDAY NHL FREE PICK: HURRICANES +1.5