The Hurricanes will be looking for their seventh straight home win tonight when they face the New York Islanders. It's a game many have penciled in as two points for Carolina, which could spell trouble if the Canes players have bought into that notion.
But Paul Maurice seems to be taking it seriously. All signs point to him inserting Cam Ward in net for the 20th consecutive game. And why not? Ward has shown no signs of slowing down over that stretch, going 11-6-2 with a 2.45 goals against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts.
On top of that, Eric Staal may be heating up again. Staal, who will play in his 400th NHL game tonight, has a four-game point streak (two goals, four assists), while fellow center and captain Rod Brind'Amour has eight points in his last six games.
From the blueline, Anton Babchuk had his first career two-goal game Wednesday, pushing him to 11 on the season. Coupled with Joe Corvo's 13 goals, it marks the first time since 1999-2000 (Sean Hill 13, Paul Coffey 11) that Carolina has two defensemen with double-digit goals.
The Canes have defeated the Isles in both meetings this season, 4-3 and 6-2, led by Staal's three goals in the two outings and Ward's play in both matchups, including a season-high 57 saves Oct. 25.
Winger Chad LaRose had two goals in that win but has struggled of late. He has been held without a point since March 7, a span of five games, and has gone seven without a goal.
As for the Isles ... let's just say these aren't your father's Islanders. For that matter, they're not even the same team from earlier in the year. Rick DiPietro is still hurt, Bill Guerin is in Pittsburgh while Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli are in Ottawa. Doug Weight and Trent Hunter are also both out.
But as James Mirtle recently wrote, the Isles are playing well despite having a lineup that features less than 10 sure-fire NHLers, and there are still top-end players like Mark Streit (six points in his last three games) to contend with. Oh, and reinforcements are on the way. The Isles recalled Mike Iggulden, Joel Rechlicz and Peter Mannino for tonight's game.
Uh, yeah ...
With Mannino called up to replace the injured Joey MacDonald, expect Yann Danis to get the start tonight.
The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on FS-CR and 99.9 The Fan.
- Power Play: CAR 20th (17.5%); 22nd at home (16.7%) • NYI 21st (17.2%); 15th on the road (18.2%)
- Penalty Kill: CAR 23rd (79.3%); 23rd at home (79.3) • NYI 10th (82.6%); 16th on the road (80.4%)
- Islanders are 28th in goals for per game (2.47) and 26th in goals against (3.14). They are also last in the league in 5-on-5 goal scoring (.71 goals for each their opponent scores) and have won only 15 percent of games they trailed after one period (last in the NHL).
- Tim Jackman is 16th in the NHL in penalty minutes (133).
- Brendan Witt ranks last in the NHL in plus/minus (minus-32). Brind'Amour is next worst at minus-26. Witt also ranks 29th in blocked shots (121 in just 53 games).
- Streit is 21st in the NHL in power play points with 28 (10-18-28), which is fifth among defensemen. He is also 10th in the NHL in ice time (25:13) and ninth in power play ice time (5:14)
- Sean Bergenheim and Richard Park each have four shorthanded points this year, tied for ninth in the league. Matt Cullen's five are tied for sixth.