The Carolina Hurricanes can't exactly pretend yesterday's fiasco in Boston never happened. The good news is that tonight they are back on home ice to take on the very same Bruins, giving them an immediate opportunity to redeem themselves and their coaches for that beat-down they endured in Beantown. Yesterday's wild matinée included the full gamut of entertainment, much of it unrelated to playing the puck. While one veteran goalie claimed his seventh shutout, in the other net, a feisty rookie demonstrated a fabulous, if illegal, tackle and takedown. In the third period, the exchange of heavy-weight punches between two youngsters (who have danced the dance twice before) followed just 30 seconds after we saw a gargantuan Slovakian celebrate his first career hat trick. Tonight at the RBC Center, the slate is clean, the wounds are fresh. Game on.
Cam Ward, who was pulled after yielding
3 2 goals on 6 5 shots yesterday, will return and get the start. Coach Paul Maurice expects him to be at his best, quoted as saying: "I'm probably more confident in that than anything else that's going on here."
Predictions, quotes and links about this unique re-match after the jump.
Rarely in the regular season are two teams so outspoken on the energy associated with tonight's match-up. A few samples of what they're expecting:
Maurice: "I’m looking forward to the game tonight, and some of it has to do with the age of our team. This is an important game. Coming back and learning to define who you are and how you handle a situation like that – this is an important piece."
Canes Now - Canes face important game against B's, also quotes similarly from Maurice
"There's a lot of these guys who can be here five or 10 years. How we approach this event is important. ... It won't necessarily be the final score that tells you if you've done it right. It will be how it looks, how you compete, how the bench is. Those are the things that are important."
Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron: "They were doing real well before [Monday]'s game so obviously they're going to want to bounce back. And we know they're pretty good in their building and they're a team that never quits. You know we've seen it two years ago.
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton: "It's the same team, but it's a whole new game. I'm sure they'll be prepared back home in their building. They're tough to play against in that building."
Here's the audio with Claude Julien after the skate today, talking match-ups and why the Bruins offense has been productive this season.
This could well be a game for the ages, and by all accounts, a big and raucous Caniac Crowd is very much part of the story, bringing their famous home ice energy that often carries the team through the full sixty minutes. With both teams having consistently proven their ability to hold on to win when taking the early lead, the first 10 minutes could be even more important than the last.
* * * * *
Beyond the redemption motivation, the Eastern Conference Standings continue to evolve. The come-back OT win by the Atlanta Thrashers over the Florida Panthers last night, and the win by the Montreal Canadiens continue to separate those who are in and those who are not. Gaining points, but stuck in ninth place, Carolina needs to maintain the push every game to get above the cut line, which should be a high priority going into the 5-day break of th All-Star Weekend in another week or so.
Because it was an optional skate, no lines were set up at the Canes pre-game skate today. If Jiri Tlusty is to be inserted in the line-up, will recent scratch Sergei Samsonov be the odd man out? Will the lines and pairings remain the same or will Maurice look to shake things up as he often does after a disappointing team effort?
Yesterday's shutout interrupted the point streaks of the entire roster. Eric Staal, Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen, Erik Cole and Jeff Skinner had all been playing very well and scoring consistently prior to Monday's game.
For your use and reference while watching the game tonight, here is Canes Country's Game Guide: Hurricanes vs Bruins, ready to print.
The Boston Globe's blog predicts these lines from the Bruins, and it seems, with no information to the contrary, that Tim Thomas will return in net. Tuukka Rask was the only goalie at the B's optional skate at the RBC Center earlier today.
As usual, the puck drops at 7:08pm, and the game will be broadcast by FSCarolinas in HD and on the air at 99.9 ESPNtheFan. We'll be ready to rumble and have the open game thread up at 6:30pm.