The sun may have set on most of the playoff hopes for the Carolina Hurricanes, but now the sun rises on a new milestone day for our hockey arena.
Today the home of many treasured Hurricanes memories, known first as the ESA, then as the RBC Center, officially becomes PNC Arena. To celebrate, the Hurricanes and PNC Bank have activities planned throughout the day, starting with an unveiling of the new center ice logos before the morning skate, and wrapping up with festivities at tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues. Commemorative pucks, PNC Arena gift cards giveaways, and on-ice projections of the arena's most famous moments are just a few of the events Canes fans can look forward to at tonight's game. Visit the Hurricanes website for all the details. Also here are a few sneak preview photos from a quick visit yesterday.
Of course, there's the matter of the matchup against tonight's opponent, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are first in league standings, six points ahead of their closest Western Conference rival, big, physical, and owner of bragging rights from the only other contest against the Canes this season. They are certainly anticipated be a very tough matchup against a team wanting to make the debut of PNC Arena a happy and successful one for its fans.
Notes on tonight's game follow after the jump.
The Blues (45-18-8, 98 pts.) and Hurricanes (26-29-15, 67 pts.) meet tonight for the second and final time this season. They last faced each other on October 21st at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Jay Harrison and Brandon Sutter both scored to give the Canes an early two-goal lead, but that lead was answered by Jason Arnott and David Backes in regulation, and Matt D'Agostini scored in overtime to give the Blues a 3-2 win.
For the Blues
- St. Louis is coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. Despite that loss, the blues are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games and lead the New York Rangers by three points in their quest for the President's Trophy.
- The Blues lead the NHL in team goals-against average by a wide margin at 1.86. Brian Elliott (1.61) and Jaroslav Halak (1.87) rank 1-2 among goalies. Until Tuesday night's loss, Halak had a streak of 10 consecutive starts in which he gave up two goals or less.
- Forward Andy McDonald has 13 points in his last 10 games, including a goal and an assist against the Blackhawks. Patrik Berglund and David Perron have points in four straight games.
- Out of the line-up are defenseman Kent Huskins (bruised hand), forward Alex Steen and defenseman Kris Russell (both out with concussion-related symptoms).
- For more news on the Blues, visit our SB Nation affiliate St. Louis Game Time.
For the Canes
- The Hurricanes return home from a five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record. Carolina took five out of six points in the first three games before closing with two defeats, including a loss to the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers Tuesday night.
- The road trip also produced a couple of casualties. No sooner did Tuomo Ruutu return from an upper-body injury (Saturday versus the Lightning), when line mate Jiri Tlusty suffered an upper-body injury of his own, and has been out since. The severity of Tlusty's injury has not been disclosed, pending medical evaluation here in Raleigh.
- Jaroslav Spacek left Sunday's game against the Panthers with an undisclosed injury, and his timetable for return is unknown as well. Bobby Sanguinetti was called up from the Charlotte Checkers on Monday to play Tuesday night against the team that drafted him. It was Sanguinetti's first call-up for the Canes (he previously played in 5 games for the Rangers), but he saw limited minutes including sitting the third period.
- Joni Pitkanen is still out of the line-up (recovery from concussion and knee surgery) but is skating with the team and traveled on the road trip.
- Anthony Stewart was a healthy scratch Tuesday night, and it remains to be seen if he will be back in the line-up tonight to face his brother, Blues forward Chris Stewart.
- Here's an interesting stat... Brandon Sutter ranks second among NHL forwards in blocked shots, with 78 (only the Capitals' Brooks Laich has more, at 79).
- Defenseman Justin Faulk continues to be counted on to log big and important minutes. He had a team high 28:16 ice time Tuesday night and leads the team in TOI per game.
- Jeff Skinner is averaging a point per game in his last nine games with three goals and six assists.
The Hurricanes held a limited skate yesterday and there was no media coverage. If there is any news following the morning skates, we'll post an update this afternoon. Game time is 7:00 pm and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Carolinas in HDTV and on the radio at WCMC 99.9 The Fan. We'll have the open game thread started at 6:30 pm. See you there.