The Carolina Hurricanes, (5-7-3) bring their three game losing streak to Madison Square Garden and will do battle with the New York Rangers, (8-3-3) tonight starting at 7 p.m. The Canes will once again be sporting new lines, as the coaching staff continues to search for ways to get captain Eric Staal -- who has yet to score an even strength goal all season -- on track.
For the first time this season, Zach Boychuk and Alexei Ponikarovsky will be Staal's wingers, at least to start off this affair. Many have been hoping for young Boychuk to get more playing time, so this could be his chance to shine. He played well against New York last year.
This is the first game of a back-to-back situation for the team as they will be back home in Raleigh to face the Penguins on Saturday night. They are currently 1-1-1 in the first game of back-to-backs and 0-2-1 in the second.
Skinner, Jokinen, Ruutu
Poni, Staal, Boychuk
Dwyer, Sutter, LaRose
Tlusty, Brent, Stewart
Cam Ward will be starting in net.
On the other side of the rink, the Rangers have been playing good hockey for coach John Tortorella and currently are riding a five game winning streak. They are led by a red hot Marian Gaborik and of course free agent acquisition Brad Richards is holding his own.
|2011 - Marian Gaborik||14||9||6||15||8||8||1||0||1||62|
|2011 - Brad Richards||14||4||6||10||-2||2||1||0||1||30|
Look for Henrik Lundqvist to face Ward.
|2011 - Henrik Lundqvist||11||669||5||3||25||2.24||353||328||.929||1|
|2011 - Cam Ward||12||691||5||5||33||2.87||376||343||.912||1|
For more information about the Rangers, check out our partners at the Blue Shirt Banter.
There is plenty of conjecture out there about why Staal might be having such a rough start. This will be his first game against the Rangers since his big hit on Marc, which ended up causing a concussion that has sidelined his brother so far this year. Is that injury related to Staal's ineffectiveness? Some in the press seem to think so.
Mike Maniscalco has his own recent take about Staal on WRAL Sports Fan.
For Tim Brent, a recent hand injury inhibited his ability to effectively win faceoffs.
"I was a little banged up basically up until last game (vs. Tampa); I had a bad hand and it was tough on taking draws," Brent said. "I lost a lot of strength, but I’m feeling a lot better now in the circle."
Of course, Chip Alexander will have even more insight over at Canes Now, including another update on Staal.
The Canes went 2-0-2 against the Rangers last year and have earned points in six of their last eight meetings, (4-2-2) against them. Jeff Skinner has five points in four career games against the blueshirts while Gaborik has 14 points in 14 career games against the Canes.
The game will be televised by FS Carolinas, starting with a preview show hosted by Bob Harwood beginning at 6:30. Chuck Kaiton will be broadcasting on 99.9 The Fan and we will have our open thread ready to go at 6:30.