Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward flips his lid and still makes the save in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on November 23, 2011 (author's photo).
Last call. Tonight the Carolina Hurricanes face the Montreal Canadiens at PNC Arena for the final home game of the 2011-12 season. Fan Appreciation Week officially wraps up and the Canes have a number of activities planned to say thanks to loyal fans.
- Front Lawn Party - Live music from the band Phive, inflatable obstacle course, moon bounce, street hockey, slap shot booth, and food and beverage. Begins at 5:00 pm.
- Chevy Hat giveaway - First 14,000 fans
- Center Ice Shot for Free Pizza - Following the game, fans (18 years of age and older) can take a slap shot from center ice and register for a chance to win free pizza for a year from Papa Johns.
More event details are available on the Canes Promotions page. Now on to the game.
The Hurricanes and Canadiens meet for the fourth and final time this season. The Canadiens won the first two meetings of the season, 4-0 in Montreal on November 16th, and 4-3 in a shootout in Raleigh on November 23rd. The Hurricanes won the last game 5-3 in Montreal on February 13th.
Montreal Canadiens Game Notes
"But it's an exciting opportunity to go to Montreal. It's a playoff team every year and a team that can vie for the Stanley Cup, so I'm excited." Erik Cole, July 1, 2011
- Les Habitants de Montréal (30-35-15, 75 pts.) are last in the Eastern Conference with two games remaining. Last night they snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre. Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty each scored two goals in the 5-2 victory.
- The bigger news out of Montreal this week was the loss of goaltender Carey Price, who suffered a concussion during practice at the end of last week. While Price's absence has little effect on the remainder of the Canadiens' season, he is doubtful to play for Team Canada in the IIHF World Championships, which begins in early May. Robert Mayer has been called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs to back up Peter Budaj in net. Budaj started last night against the Lightning and it is not yet determined which goalie will be in net tonight with the back-to-back games.
- The aforementioned ex-Cane Erik Cole is on a tear. Playing in his 700th NHL game last night, Cole scored two goals, earning the game's first star. His career-high 34 goals this season rank him 13th in the NHL.
- Meanwhile forward Scott Gomez will end his season with one more goal than Cam Ward.
Projected line-up for the Habs:
- Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
- Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Louis Leblanc
- Blake Geoffrion - Lars Eller - Mike Blunden
- Brad Staubitz - Gabriel Dumont - Aaron Palushaj
- Peter Budaj - Robert Mayer
- Sadly, it appears that Hurricanes fans will not see the return of ex-Cane Tomas Kaberle, who is out of the line-up with an upper body injury. The Habs are decimated with injuries, almost able to field an entire line-up with players who are on injured reserve (Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Raphael Diaz, and Yannick Weber). Ryan White and Petteri Nokelainen are also out with short-term injuries.
Follow SB Nation affiliate Habs Eyes on the Prize for other news and updates on the Canadiens.
Hurricanes Game Notes
- Your Carolina Hurricanes (32-32-16, 80 pts.) are 12th in the Eastern Conference, also with two games remaining. After a dismal weekend produced two home losses, they recovered with a 2-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.
- Good news for the Hurricanes is the return of forward Andreas Nodl, who missed seven games with concussion-like symptoms. With Nodl back in the line-up, forward Drayson Bowman has been assigned to Charlotte (press release), in time to help the Checkers with their playoff push.
- Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has recorded 25 or more goals in each of the last six seasons. Staal is currently one goal shy of reaching that mark for this season. As a side note - two years ago, the Hurricanes suffered a shut out loss to the New Jersey Devils in their penultimate home game, which was followed up by an Eric Staal hat trick five nights later against... the Canadiens.
- Cam Ward was 13 seconds away from a shutout on Tuesday night, which would have been his sixth of the year, tying his season best. Ward ranks second in the NHL in both saves and shots faced (a very close second to Pekka Rinne who has started four more games).
- Bryan Allen will be playing in his 600th NHL game and his 100th game as a Hurricane.
- Tuomo Ruutu is one point shy of 300 career NHL points.
Canes Projected Lines:
- Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
- Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
- Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
- Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart
- Cam Ward
- Brian Boucher
- Jaroslav Spacek remains out of the Canes line-up as he recovers from a lower body injury.
Other Canes News
Got Maniscalco? Yesterday the Hurricanes and Capital Broadcasting Company agreed to a three-year extension for radio broadcasting rights on WCMC 99.9 The Fan.
- WRAL SportsFan: Canes playing for next season in remaining games
- News & Observer: Young Canes playing for next season's spots
- NHL.com: Muller already seeing progress out of Hurricanes
- News & Observer: Hurricanes' hockey fans winning over Muller
- News & Observer: Josh Wesley, son of former Cane, now a future NHL prospect
And in this morning's news, the North Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced its two annual awards. Eric Staal was named the team's MVP, and in a thoughtful and fitting tribute, the media Good Guy award was renamed the Josef Vasicek award and awarded to Jay Harrison.
- News & Observer: Staal, Harrison win awards, including new Vasicek honor
Tonight's game will be broadcast on the normal Hurricanes channels, Fox Sports Carolinas in HDTV, and radio on WCMC 99.9 The Fan. Game time is 7:00 pm, and we'll have the game thread ready to go at 6:30. See you there.