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Kirk Muller faces pivotal season in Carolina

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For better or worse, the Carolina Hurricanes’ core players are locked up for the foreseeable future. Even so, there’s at least one figure in the franchise who has a lot to prove next season: head coach Kirk Muller.*

So far, the results haven’t been particularly promising, but let’s not forget that Muller hasn’t really received a full season to prove himself just yet.

Sure, he was in place in 2013, but that was just a 48-game campaign with virtually no training camp. Muller took over the Hurricanes gig during the 2011-12 season, so this represents his first opportunity to have a traditional training camp and generally install things more naturally.

Even so, it’s a challenging situation, as you can see from Hurricanes Day at PHT.

  • Muller must keep an expensive group of big-money players motivated and focused, even though most of them enjoy the comfort of long-term deals.
  • Cam Ward hopes to bounce back, but if Anton Khudobin is more than just a product of playing behind Zdeno Chara in Boston, then Muller needs to give his backup a nice amount of reps. Managing goalie duos is an underrated challenge for head coaches.
  • Finding some way to make the team’s inefficient special teams units more efficient would provide a greater margin of error.
  • He faces the challenge of the newly formed Metropolitan Division, which should almost certainly provide tougher competition than the often-putrid Southeast Division.

It won’t be easy, but at least Muller will get to do things his way in 2013-14. One can only guess how many – if any – more chances he’ll receive if it doesn’t work out next season, though.

* – At least since it seems like GM Jim Rutherford is approaching a Darcy Regier-level of job security.

More Hurricanes Day at PHT fun

Carolina leans on Cam Ward

Will the defense get better?

It could all come down to three signings

PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

–The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

–Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

–“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

–Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial:

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.