Some fans of the Carolina Hurricanes have been dreaming for Eric Staal to have a top end, high scoring winger to help enhance the big center's game for quite some time. While rookie Jeff Skinner is considered a center himself -- or at least a future center -- he has been playing wing more often than not and seems most effective at that position, for now.
Last night in Buffalo, coach Paul Maurice moved Skinner to Staal's line for a change of pace and things looked good. Maurice is going to stick with that combination again tonight as the Hurricanes, (32-28-10) host the Toronto Maple Leafs, (30-29-10) in another crucial game with serious playoff implications for both teams.
The Hurricanes have 74 points and sit in ninth place, just two points behind Buffalo and four points behind the seventh place New York Rangers. Toronto is close behind, with 70 points.
Tuomo Ruutu joins the dynamic duo on the first line, which puts the team's top three scorers together on one line. How long will the threesome stay together? Find out more tonight at the RBC.
The lines will start out as follows:
- Skinner, Staal, Ruutu
- Cole, Jokinen, Stillman
- Tlusty, Sutter, LaRose
- Samson, Dwyer, Bowman
The defensive pairings seem to be mixed and matched liberally from the following six: Gleason, Corvo, Pitkanen, Harrison, Joslin, and Allen. Troy Bodie will be the healthy extra while Jamie McBain remains out with an injury.
Cam Ward will get the nod in net as he comes off a sterling 1-0 shutout last night.
Some possible good news for the Hurricanes is that they will not be facing James Reimer, the young goalie who earned his first career shutout against Carolina in Toronto on February 3. Reimer has had some difficulty in recent games and the coaching staff feels he needs a break.
J-S Giguere will be in goal for the visitors.
|2010 - Cam Ward||62||3590||29||23||157||2.62||1992||1835||.921||3|
|2010 - Jean-Sebastien Giguere||31||1556||11||10||75||2.89||741||666||.899||0|
Toronto traded away some big guns before the trade deadline, but the team has been holding steady, even with the big names relocated. Tomas Kaberle, Kris Versteeg, and Francois Beauchemin are all gone, but apparently are not necessariy missed.
The Leafs are 3-3-1 since the deadline and have a 4-3-3 record in their last 10. The Canes just broke up a four game winless streak with the help of some grand larceny by Cam Ward last night. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10.
Colby Armstrong is out for the Leafs with a broken foot. Sharpshooter, Nazem Kadri has been recalled and will take his spot. The good news is that Armstrong won't be injuring any Hurricanes tonight. The bad news is, Kadri has skill and can put the puck in the net.
The last two times these teams met, there was bad blood because Tim Gleason punched Nikolai Kulemin when the Carolina defenseman was knocked in the face a few times by the non-violent Russian. After dropping the gloves with Carolina heavyweight Chad LaRose, Clarke MacArthur had big words about the incident for the press, even as his coach, Ron Wilson downplayed the incident and had nothing but positive to say about Gleason.
Will anything carry forward tonight or is it water under the proverbial bridge?
Hockeymom has her Game Day Guide ready to go, with fresh, new pictures!
The Hurricanes powerplay and penalty kill are performing at opposite ends of the spectrum. If the powerplay scores, does that mean the penalty kill will falter? Look for different line combos as the coaching staff gets creative with the man advantage. Will they try five defensemen? How about the fourth line with Jay Harrison and Gleason at the points? This could get interesting.
The game will be televised by FS Carolinas starting at 7. Brian will have the Open Game Thread/Live Blog up and running at 6:30. We will both be adding our 2 cents from the peanut gallery, (press row) throughout the festivities.