January 4th, 2018,
With Carolina playing its best hockey of the season, and Pittsburgh trying to find consistency in its game, Thursday night is setting up to be a good divisional showdown.
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Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are all on pace for 80-plus point seasons, yet Pittsburgh is fighting for their playoff lives. The reason for their mediocrity? Look to the other end of the ice. They rank ninth-last in goals allowed per game (3.12), and defenseman Justin Schultz stands as one of two players on the Pens with a plus rating (+2). Add the fact that Matt Murray’s save percentage is hovering just over .900, and the result is a team that can’t keep the puck out of its net.
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Carolina, on the other hand, prides itself in being a defensively-sound team. The Hurricanes have surrendered more than two goals in just four of their last 10 games, and have won seven of those contests. Veteran netminder, Cam Ward, has taken over as the Hurricane’s No. 1 goalie, and has flourished in the role, going 10-2-1 with a save percentage of .911. If Ward continues to roll, the Canes will be a team to reckon with in the second half of the season and will give the Pens trouble on Thursday.