Welcome back to game day, Canes Country friends and fans. 287 days is a long time to wait between games. There's a lot to cover in this lockout-shortened season, so strap in and enjoy the ride. This year we'll be featuring a new look with game day story streams for game day previews, pre-game analysis, game thread, recaps, and post-game analysis, along with breaking news.
Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers
- January 19, 2012 - 7:30 pm EST
- BB&T Center - Sunrise, Florida
- TV - Fox Sports Carolinas Radio - 99.9 The Fan
- SB Nation Panthers Blog: Litter Box Cats (twitter @LitterBoxCats)
We might as well begin where we left off last season, which is exactly where the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves tonight, on the road against the Florida Panthers for the first of four games between the two teams this season. The Canes and Panthers played on April 7th, the last day of the 2011-12 regular reason. The Panthers won that game (and dominated the series between the two teams last year with a 5-1 record) and moved on to the playoffs, and the Canes haven't played another NHL game, until tonight.
The Hurricanes wasted no time making noise in the off-season, and it was big noise, acquiring forward Jordan Staal via trade at the NHL entry draft and acquiring Alexander Semin in free agency for top-six firepower. Semin will move onto the first line with captain Eric Staal, while brother Jordan will center the second line with Jeff Skinner. Veteran Joe Corvo returned for his third tour of duty in the sightless eye. Right wing enforcement Kevin Westgarth was added for size and toughness, and veteran goaltender Dan Ellis, fresh off a stellar performance with the Charlotte Checkers, will back up Cam Ward in net.
Expect to see lots of youthful enthusiasm in tonight's lineup as Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Justin Faulk, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Jeremy Welsh carry the momentum that helped vault the Charlotte Checkers to the top of the AHL's Western Conference. While Faulk was a roster lock, the others proved their spot on the roster during training camp, Boychuck and Dalpe earning roles in the top six.
The Hurricanes will be without the services of forward Tuomo Ruutu, who had hip surgery during the lockout and is expected to be out of the lineup through April.
- Zach Boychuk - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
- Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Zac Dalpe
- Jiri Tlusty - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
- Drayson Bowman - Tim Brent/Jeremy Welsh - Patrick Dwyer/Kevin Westgarth
* * *
- Tim Gleason - Joe Corvo
- Joni Pitkanen - Justin Faulk
- Jay Harrison - Jamie McBain
- Bobby Sanguinetti
* * *
- Cam Ward
- Dan Ellis
The Panthers are the reigning Southeast Division champions and they'll raise that banner in their building tonight. For a team that looks similar to the one that lost to the New Jersey Devils in the playoffs, there is a lot of last-minute fluctuation in their roster leading up to tonight's game.
During the offseason the Panthers lost talent in free agency with the departure of forward Mikael Samuelsson and defenseman Jason Garrison, but picked up scoring depth with Peter Mueller. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau is expected to add firepower, and George Parros will provide toughness.
Just yesterday, the Panthers signed veteran forward Alex Kovalev, who participated in Panthers training camp on a tryout basis, to a one-year contract. Kovalev is expected to take a second line role with Mueller and Huberdeau.
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was also signed to a contract by the Panthers on Friday. Kulikov, who played in the KHL during the lockout, stayed in Russia after the lockout ended and did not return to training camp. He will have to pass a physical before he can be cleared to play but is currently expected to clear those hurdles and be in the lineup tonight.
There are no immediate changes planned in net, Jose Theodore (4-1 against the Canes last season) and Scott Clemmensen remain their goaltending tandem.
Defenseman Ed Jovanovski was announced as the team captain at Friday's practice.
The Panthers are already piling up the injuries. Forwards Sean Bergenheim (groin) and Marcel Goc (groin) and defenseman Erik Gudbranson (shoulder) were already out of the lineup. Defenseman Mike Weaver suffered a "slight" concussion on Wednesday and is questionable; Kulikov will likely replace him if available. Forward Kris Versteeg left the ice during Friday's practice and his status is unknown, which would open up a spot on the top forward line with Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss.
News and Observer:
- It's time for Canes to play
- DeCock: To Hurricanes, it doesn't matter who Semin is, only what he is
- Canes rely on Staal power
- Ellis Plays Way Back to NHL
- Canes Get Locker Room Upgrade
- Canes Finalize Opening Night Roster
- Kirk Muller audio from Friday's practice
WRALSportsFan.com: John Forslund previews the Canes opener
Sportsnet.ca: Rutherford Previews His Hurricanes
Cisco NHL Live: Kirk Muller Video
- NHL.com Super 16: Boston Bruins top initial power rankings
- USA Today: USA Today NHL Rankings
- Puck Daddy: Puck Daddy's 2013 NHL Eastern Conference Staff Prognostications
Florida Panthers Links:
- NBC Miami: Panthers Re-Sign Dmitry Kulikov
- Miami Herald: Florida Panthers Friday Notebook
- Litter Box Cats: Five Questions as Panthers Head into NHL's 2013 Season
- Miami Herald: After division title, Panthers adjust to being the hunted in 2013
Finally, while the Canes season opening promotion has been all around the phrase "It's Time", the Florida Panthers have gone in a little different direction with their promotional slogan "Get It On." So with that being said, I'll leave us with a little Marvin Gaye this morning. Enjoy!