No, Bruce Springsteen is not visiting Raleigh, but Peter Karmanos is. The owner of the Carolina Hurricanes is in town today and will be the keynote speaker at a Raleigh Sports Council function at the RBC this afternoon. One must assume that he will stick around to watch his hockey team play tonight as well.
His club is on a downswing lately though, after losing three in a row by a combined score of 14-4.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be the opponent tonight and they are riding a four game losing streak of their own. Sound familiar? Ottawa had a five game losing streak before wrapping up the Canes 5-1 on Tuesday night. Will Carolina continue to be the cure that mends ailing teams?
Coach Paul Maurice hopes not. Of course this contest means a bit more to him than the typical regular season game. He's quoted in this article as saying:
"I'd like to beat Toronto, real bad."
Not that the ex-Toronto coach bears any ill will over his dismissal during the offseason.
The players certainly have plenty of reasons at their disposal to help them get motivated for this game. If nothing else, they should probably want to put forth a pretty good effort in front of the guy that signs their paychecks. The out-of-town owner does not get to watch his team in person as often as he would like to.
The Canes are back to tinkering with the lines and Ray Whitney is expected to be moved to the Eric Staal/Tuomo Ruutu pairing. Sergei Samsonov will be matched with Brind'Amour and Williams.
The Leafs are having a bloody awful year in their own right, but their fans see the light at the end of the tunnel if they can qualify for a top-rated draft pick. (John Tavares anyone?) Nic Antropov is their leading scorer, but he is on an 11 game scoring drought. (Look for him to break out tonight).
Tim Gleason is expected back tonight, (yes, really this time), but it's not known whose spot he will take. Apparently, Nic Wallin is not 100% healthy, but he still might play in place of Frank Kaberle for a touch more physical presence.
I am assuming that Cam Ward will be between the pipes, facing Vesa Toskala for the Leafs.
The franchise plans to honor Eric Staal at some point during the game, for being named to the Eastern Conference All Star team for the third consecutive year. This will be the last home game before the All Star break.
The first 10,000 fans will receive Tim Gleason bobbleheads.
Don't forget, there is a later than usual 7:30 start time to accomodate our friends in Canada. (Heaven forbid they change their schedule to meet the Canes.) The game will be broadcast locally by FS Carolinas.