9:00 pm ET (6:00 pm MT)
Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, AZ
TV - FSN Carolinas HD, Radio – WCMC 99.9 The Fan
After what seems like an eternity, the Carolina Hurricanes finally wrap up their marathon October road trip when they face the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
The Hurricanes are 3-3 for the season, 1-3 on their North American road swing, and are coming off a disappointing 4-3 loss in a solid effort against the LA Kings on Wednesday night. The Coyotes bested those same Kings the following night with a strong performance by Lee Stempniak, who tallied his first career hat trick in the 4-2 victory. The Coyotes are 2-2-1 season to date.
The two teams met once last season, a 4-0 loss by the Hurricanes to the Coyotes on March 13, 2010 at the RBC Center.
What to watch four:
1. Although these two teams don't meet often, there is plenty of history here as the Canes see former teammate Ray Whitney for the first time since his off-season signing with the Coyotes. Never one to suffer in the shadows, the Wizard is the center of attention for tonight's matchup. The N&O's Chip Alexander interviewed Ray yesterday for Canes Now and also has a feature today about Ray's transition to his new environs. He's also covered in the Arizona Republic, and Coyotes TV highlights video from Ray in their game preview.
Ray joked there wouldn't be a shortage of ex-teammates waiting to take a shot at him once the two teams hit the ice, and he wasn't so sure he'd enjoy the chirping from Chad LaRose. Chad had this to say in response (from the N&O feature):
"I can probably get a smirk out of him," LaRose said. "He's a great guy, and we'll miss him. We had a lot of laughs together. But he'll be wearing a Coyotes shirt.
Statistically speaking, there's not a lot to say about Whitney's season to date. He played in the Coyotes' first two games in Europe before being sidelined with a finger injury, but returned to the lineup for the Kings game and is expected to play tonight. He has one point, an assist, through three games. The Coyotes will be looking forward to his return and expect him to energize their 24th-ranked power play.
2. One has to think that the Wizard would be delighted to score in his first game against his former team as many ex-Canes have done before him. With that being said, including Whitney there are eight members of the Coyotes who have Canes connections. Don't overlook ex-Cane Eric Belanger, who currently leads the Coyotes with 2 goals and 5 points. Radim Vrbata, another former teammate, also has 2 goals. Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett started his NHL career playing in 483 games with the Hartford Whalers and still leads the franchise with 11 shorthanded goals. GM Don Maloney and coaches Ulf Samuelsson, Doug Sulliman, and Sean Burke are all Hurricanes/Whalers alumni.
Conversely and curiously, I don't believe there is any player on the Canes roster or coaching staff that has a connection with the Coyotes.
3. Phoenix captain Shane Doan won't be in tonight's lineup, serving the second game of a three-game suspension for his hit on Anaheim's Dan Sexton on October 19th. Doan has been rather vocal to the media with his reaction (shock) and disagreement with the decision. His toughness and on-ice leadership will surely be missed, and to what extent the team will be able to rally without him remains to be seen, although that wasn't a problem on Thursday. One player who has stepped up in a big way in Doan's absence is Ed Jovanovski, who earned the 'C' during the three game suspension and responded accordingly against the Kings with 3 assists and a solid defensive performance in the win.
4. After a strong start to the season, Brandon Sutter's minutes were limited in the last period of the Kings game and Patrick O'Sullivan replaced him in the faceoff circle. John Forslund tweeted that Brandon practiced on Friday but did not appear to be at full strength. While nothing has been officially reported, speculation is that he may have lingering effects from an awkward fall he took during the Vancouver game. Sergei Samsonov, who was reported a "healthy but not healthy" scratch against the Kings, practiced Friday as well and may see action if Sutter's status is questionable, or he may see action at the expense of another forward.
Neither team made significant changes in their lineups based on what was reported from yesterday's practices. The teams will skate later today (Canes will skate at noon ET) and I will post here with any reported changes to the roster. As of now the projected lines have not been confirmed.
AFTERNOON UPDATE: Brandon Sutter will be in the lineup, as will Sergei Samsonov, who will replace Patrick O'Sullivan.
New links following pre-game skate:
Staal - Jokinen - LaRose
Ruutu - Skinner - Cole
Sutter - Samsonov - Kostpoulos
Dalpe - Bowman - Dwyer
Pikanen - Corvo
Gleason - McBain
Harrison - Babchuk
Projected out of lineup: Patrick O'Sullivan (healthy), Brett Carson (healthy)
Turris - Whitney - Vrbata
Belanger - Upshall - Wolski
Fiddler - Pyatt - Stempniak
Ebbett - Bissonnette - Korpikoski
Aucoin - Ekman-Larsson
Yandle - Schlemko
Jovanovski - Morris
Ilya Bryzgalov will start in net, backed up by Jason LaBarbera
Out of the lineup: Shane Doan (suspension), Martin Hanzal (lower body)
For more information on the Coyotes, check out SBNation affiliate Five for Howling.
With a late game start on a Saturday night, I'm guessing a lot of folks here will be watching from their favorite watering hole. I think there will also be a few Canes fans traveling to Phoenix to be in the house for this game. We'd love to hear from you. We'll have the game thread up as usual by 8:30 pm.