The door is now wide open. All the Carolina Hurricanes need to do is skate through it to the postseason. But of course, that's much easier said than done.
In the crazy final weeks leading up to the end of the NHL regular season, Carolina fans have had high hopes, then had those hopes crushed, but through it all the Canes have been able to put together a nice streak of games, (7-1-1 in their last nine), which has kept them in the running, even if their chances were less than favorable of actually making the playoffs.
Those chances took a major turn for the better last night.
When the Atlanta Thrashers defeated the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Thrashers turned the tables and gave the Hurricanes control of their own destiny. If the Hurricanes can win their final two games in regulation, they are in the playoffs.
Simple, right? Not so fast.
First up are those same Thrashers who looked so good in New York last night. They will be loose, confident, and looking to play role of the spoiler once again.
Still, Carolina has gotten the better of this team more often than not and should be confident in their own right. But now that the pressure is back on them, will they be able to perform the way they did against Detroit Wednesday night?
Look for the Carolina lineup to be the same as in recent games:
- Stillman, Staal, Cole
- Skinner, Ruutu, Jokinen
- LaRose, Sutter, Bowman
- Tlusty, Dwyer, Samson
- Gleason, Corvo
- Pitkanen, McBain
- Allen, Joslin
Cam Ward will make his league leading and career high 73rd start of the season. He has also played more minutes, faced more shots, and made more saves than any other goalie in the league.
|2010 - Cam Ward||72||4199||36||25||179||2.56||2323||2144||.923||4|
At the time of this writeup, it was not known who the Thrashers would start. They could easily go with last night's shutout winner, Ondrej Pavelec, who looked very good against the Rangers, or they could give him the night off and play capable backup Chris Mason.
|2010 - Ondrej Pavelec||57||3165||21||22||141||2.67||1673||1532||.916||4|
|2010 - Chris Mason||32||1622||13||12||91||3.37||863||772||.895||1|
Pavelec is 3-4-2 lifetime against the Canes. Mason has a 2-2-1 record.
Atlanta has been up and down in recent games with a 5-5-0 record in their last 10.
Eric Staal is currently riding a four game scoring streak for Carolina, (2G 5A). Staal has scored 50 points over 47 career games against Atlanta.
Erik Cole has eight game winning goals this season, three of them coming against the Thrashers.
The Hurricanes are 4-0-1 against Atlanta this season and have a 6-1-1 record against them over the past eight games.
Cam Ward has a 18-8-3 lifetime record against them.
This is the final back-to-back situation for the team this season. They have a 13-3-4 record in the first of those games, but they are 7-11-2 in the second.
The game will be televised by FS Carolinas with a late start time of 7:30. Our open game thread will be ready to go at 7.