Wednesday May 20th, 2009

Some thoughts and observations from the day off before Game 2 of the Hurricanes-Penguins series...

1. A semi-scary moment at the Penguins' practice this morning. Defenseman Rob Scuderi took a hard slapshot by Evgeni Malkin in the lower leg, and went down for a couple minutes. The place went quiet as he clutched his ankle area.

"It's hard enough to stay healthy in the playoffs as they are," says Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, "but when you start seeing that in practice, you hope it's not serious."

Scuderi managed to get on his feet and didn't leave the ice immediately, but if nothing else, it'll certainly leave a mark.

2. Speaking of injuries: Carolina forwards Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu will be game-time decisions. Neither player skated on Wednesday. Cole left Game 1 after a knee-on-knee collision with Penguins winger Matt Cooke, and Ruutu was sidelined after he got mixed up with Mark Eaton. Losing Cole and Ruutu, two of their grittier forwards, would be a rather damaging blow, but the extra day of rest is surely a welcome break for the Hurricanes.

3. Speaking of extra rest: With the bizarro scheduling of this round, the teams enjoyed a second off-day Wednesday. "It's different," Penguins winger Bill Guerin said. "I'm sure everybody would like to play every other day, but you can't worry about it. It's good to get the rest, too."

The first off day is the weirder of the two, he said, because the game doesn't feel as imminent. But still, you couldn't keep him out of the building. Guerin took in the Bruce Springsteen concert in Mellon Arena on Tuesday evening. He said the Boss was great.

4. Also great, Guerin said, is playing with Crosby. Feeling rejuvenated by his stint in Pittsburgh, the 38-year-old Guerin explained what sets the superstar apart: work ethic.

"He goes at such a high level [in practice] that he pushes me and pushes Chris [Kunitz]," he said. "He's better at everything than I thought he was."

Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice echoed the sentiments. "[Work ethic] is an underrated strength," he said. "People in the game understand that's what separates [Crosby] from most players. I think that's what separates most truly great players is their willingness to work."

5. And finally, a parting thought on last night's Blackhawks-Red Wings game: Though Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews may be inseparable in a sentence, they don't belong on the same line -- at least not against the Red Wings. Head coach Joel Quenneville made the adjustment of separating the two late in Game 1, moving big-bodied Dustin Byfuglien up to play with Toews and Troy Brouwer with Kane playing with Kris Versteeg and Sami Pahlsson. The matchups worked out better for Chicago, and the benefit of last change when they return to the United Center will certainly help them get back into the series.

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