With points in seven straight games, the Carolina Hurricanes seem to be building some momentum at the mid-season milepost. In fact, the turning point in the increasingly consistent results may have been when GM Jim Rutherford made his now famous visit [it even made the New York Post] to the locker room at Toronto's Air Canada Center December 29th. The Canes have not lost in regulation since.
After a string of minor injuries, the Hurricanes will be closer to having the roster at full-strength tonight when they host the Calgary Flames. Joni Pitkanen returned Sunday having missed five games, and now Jussi Jokinen is good to go after missing six. According to Coach Paul Maurice, Jokinen will be moved around the lines, according to the situation and how quickly he gets up to speed; he is recovering from a lower body injury. Jokinen will play at Sutter's wing (though we don't know if he is replacing Dalpe or Patrick Dwyer), and will also center the fourth line. He may also see some minutes up with Eric Staal and on a powerplay unit.
With Jokinen's return, Jon Matsumoto is the first of the recent call-ups to head back to Charlotte. Valuable fourth line center Ryan Carter and young winger Jiri Tlusty both remain sidelined with injuries, so for now, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe are still playing in Raleigh, and should expect to remain in the top nine among the forwards tonight. With Jokinen moving around, these two also may see matched up with a variety of linemates.
The Canes All-Star goaltender, Cam Ward, will be back in action after a minor lower body concern kept him to a back-up role for two games.
The Hurricanes lines will be a bit fluid with Jokinen apparently as the floater.
Staal, Boychuk Cole (Jokinen?)
Ruutu, Skinner, LaRose
Sutter, Dalpe, Dwyer (Jokinen?)
Jokinen, Samsonov, Bodie
Here is Paul Maurice after practice, [Audio, 6 minutes], talking about All-Star invites, then speaking with the Calgary press about the roles of Alternate Captain Brandon Sutter and Ian White, who was acquired by trade from the Flames November 17th.
The Flames are coming off a disappointing loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Calgary Friday. Both of the former Hurricanes, who were part of the Ian White/Brett Sutter trade, contributed to the game sheet. The Flames had a 2-goal lead halfway through the game after Anton Babchuk scored a powerplay goal from the blueline. The Wings came back to tie it at 4-4, and then won it in a shoot out. In the third period Tom Kostopoulos powerful check on the Wings' Brad Stuart caused Stuart's jaw to be broken in two places. Kostopoulos has since been suspended for six games under the new Rule 48, designed to eliminate dangerous hits to the head from the game, and will not be available tonight.
Chip Alexander caught up with both the former Hurricanes today: Canes Now - Kostopoulos, Babchuk return to RBC Center
Here's the preview of the game from the Calgary Herald: Game Day: Calgary at Carolina with comments from their coach Brent Sutter on their workhorse goaltender and the team's responsibilities:
In the wake of back-to-back shaky performances by G Miikka Kiprusoff, coach Brent Sutter said: "Miikka hasn't had two of his strongest performances the last two games . . . and we need to have him play well. You need goaltending. But there's other areas we need to shore up, too. And again, we want to be a team. We don't want to be pointing fingers, we don't want to be saying, 'It's this guy, this guy, this guy.' We have to stay together as a team. That's the way I want us playing. That's the way I want us in the locker-room. That's what's going to allow us to have success moving forward."
The Herald also published these lines
A. Tanguay, O. Jokinen, J. Iginla
R. Bourque, B. Morrison, D. Moss
C. Glencross, M. Stajan, N. Hagman
A. Kotalik, M. Backlund, T. Jackman
R. Regehr, J. Bouwmeester
M. Giordano, C. Sarich
A. Pardy, A. Babchuk
Goalie: M. Kiprusoff
Be sure to check in at the SBN blog for insight and opinions on all things Flames over at Matchsticks and Gasoline. Other general notes:
- Jarome Iginla, the teams Captain, was the only player from Calgary who will be back in Raleigh in a few weeks for the All-Star events.
- The Flames enter the game with a season record of 18-20-4. and are sitting at 14th in the Western Conference.
- They are 4-5-1 in their last 10, and have a road record of 7-12-3. Against Eastern Conference teams in ten games, the Flames are 4-5-1.
- The Calgary General Manager Darryl Sutter stepped down two weeks ago and Jay Feaster is serving as Interim. It wasn't a friendly divorce.
- This is the first game of a four game Eastern Conference roadtrip for the Flames. They head up to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal from here.
Despite Kiprusoff's recent inconsistency in goal, he has some formidable career numbers when facing the Hurricanes, going 4-0-0, with a 1.18 GAA and two shutouts in five career appearances. Kiprusoff, a 34-year-old native of Turku Finland, has been with the Flames since the 2002 and an ironman the last 5 seasons. Since the lock-out, he has averaged over 74 games/season, more than any other goalie over the same time period. Cam Ward has never gone over 70.
More recently, Ward has been stellar, carrying the team at times. In his last 19 outings, he has compiled a 2.06 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.
Here are your season stat lines for both goaltenders
|2010 - Miikka Kiprusoff||35||2105||16||17||93||2.65||968||875||.904||3|
|2010 - Cam Ward||34||1954||17||11||83||2.55||1108||1025||.925||2|
For more Hurricanes roster notes, stats and stories, please refer to our Canes Country's Game Guide: Hurricanes vs Flames which you can print out if you're headed to the game tonight.
Other stats and notes
- The Canes have tightened up their Penalty Kill of late and have gone 62-for-75 (82.7%) in the team’s last 22 games. They also are among the least penalized teams in the league.
- The biggest contrast between the teams will show up in the SOG comparisons. The Canes are 27th averaging 34.0 shots against per game. The Flames hold their opponents to 27.7 which is good for 2nd in the League.
- For Canes/Flames connections, other than the November 17th exchange of defensemen White and Babchuk, the Flames' head coach, Brent Sutter is the father of Canes Alternate Captain, Brandon Sutter.
Tonight's game will not be on a local TV broadcast by Fox Sports, but you can listen to Chuck Kaiton's call on 99.9 the Fan or watch the Calgary home broadcast available on TV via Center Ice. We'll have the Open Game Thread open for business at 6:30.