Sunday was a day of medical updates and practice for the Canes.
On the medical front, goalie Cam Ward (lower-body injury) and forward Jeff Skinner (upper-body) each had MRIs, and the Canes were to get the results later in the day. Goalie Anton Khudobin (lower-body) skated before the practice but only briefly, Canes coach Kirk Muller said.
Defenseman Brett Bellemore (lower-body) tried to skate but was sore, Muller said. Forward Radek Dvorak (lower-body) did not skate.
On Khudobin, Muller said, "He tried this morning, didn't feel that great. So he's got a little work to do. It's nice to see he went out and tried it … but he's got some work ahead of him."
Muller said there still was no time frame for Khudobin, who has been out since Oct. 13, returning to practice.
"We'll see how he fares the next few days getting some skating in," Muller said.
Muller said Dvorak was a "question mark" for the Pittsburgh Penguins game on Monday. Skinner may also be questionable for the game at PNC Arena.
Muller said a question addressed before Sunday's practice was the Canes' slow starts and three first-period goals this season.
"We said, 'Our second and third periods we outscore (teams) and outchance teams (and) it's more like you're going to see how the game's going to develop,’” Muller said. “You can’t win consistently in this league if you're spotting teams two goals, and it's from pressing at the beginning. If you're going to get caught and get scored on, then you're chasing the game.
"It's like, 'Oh, you've got to come out harder.' We've got to come out smarter and have a good first period where we play the game the right way and then we just keep building as the game goes. We need to play with the right intensity at the right spots."
Canes captain Eric Staal said there's has been some overanxiousness in first periods. The Canes have taken some penalties, he said, or have lost their "third-man-high" positioning in the offensive zone and allowed teams to counter.
"As a group we've got to be smarter with some of the decisions we're making, especially in the first period," Staal said.
Muller took a look at some different line combinations Sunday, moving Nathan Gerbe to the left side on Eric Staal's line line and Elias Lindholm to right wing on Jordan Staal's line. The lines had Eric Staal centering Gerbe and Alex Semin; Jordan Staal centering Jiri Tlusty and Lindholm; Riley Nash at center with Tuomo Ruutu and Pat Dwyer; and Brett Sutter centering Drayson Bowman and Kevin Westgarth.
On defense, Justin Faulk was paired with Andrej Sekera and Ryan Murphy with Tim Gleason. Ron Hainsey worked with Mike Komisarek and Jay Harrison.
The Pens have lost the past three games, which has both positive and negative overtones for the Canes, who dropped the road games at Minnesota and Colorado in their last two.
"We're looking at it as we've lost two and they're going to be hungry and not very happy. We're not," Muller said. "I told the guys tomorrow is going to be a heck of a hockey game because you have two teams that shouldn't be very happy. I think it will be an interesting game. I think there will be a lot of emotion and should be a good one."