Carolina Hurricanes vs. Detroit Red Wings: Game Preview - Season Opener 10-4-13

Jamie Kellner

Real hockey is finally here, and the Carolina Hurricanes break the seal on season 16 as they face the Detroit Red Wings tonight.

Carolina Hurricanes vs Detroit Red Wings
Friday, October 4, 2013 - 7:00 pm EDT
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas
Radio - 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: Winging It In Motown (twitter @wingingitinmotown)

The Hurricanes kick off Season 16 tonight at PNC Arena as they face a new Eastern Conference rival yet an old foe, the Detroit Red Wings. Owing to owner feuds and a date to the big dance in 2002, these teams have a bit of history. They did not meet last season due to the lockout, but faced each other once in Detroit in 2012 (Red Wings won 5-4 on March 24, 2012) and once in Raleigh in 2011 (3-0 shutout by Cam Ward on April 6, 2011).

Other than the colors of their jerseys, which will be quite the red and white display tonight, the Canes and Wings don't have a lot in common. The Red Wings are a model of stability, with consecutive playoff appearances that precede their Stanley Cup win against the Hurricanes in 2002 (not to mention another Cup in 2008). Head coach Mike Babcock is entering his ninth season at the helm, and they have all of two players in tonight's lineup that were not on the squad last season, venerable forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. On the other hand, the Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs since 2009, head coach Kirk Muller just wrapped up his first full training camp, and seven players make their Hurricanes debuts up and down the roster.

Where the Hurricanes do have stability, and success, is in the top forward line, where expectations remain high for Eric Staal, Alex Semin, and Jiri Tlusty to continue last season's league-leading scoring performance. Injuries throughout the preseason have caused shuffling among the forward lines, but for the short term appear to be set with last year's pairing of Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal separated to allow Skinner more scoring opportunity while maintaining a more defensive role on Jordan's line. Elias Lindholm, drafted fifth overall in this summer's draft, has seen limited time in preseason due to injury but will get a chance to work in gradually.

The defense corps has gone through a major overhaul, with the addition of Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey, and Mike Komisarek. Brett Bellemore earned a stay with the big club after a solid performance in eight games at the end of last season, and 2011 first-rounder Ryan Murphy will get an early season shot to showcase his skating and puck-moving skills on the power play.

A healthy Cam Ward is back in net after suffering a season-ending knee injury early last season. He'll be joined by off-season acquisition Anton Khudobin, who was solid in net backing up Tuukka Rask in Boston in 2012-13.

Expected line-up (courtesy of the Hurricanes web site):

Forwards

Jiri Tlusty

Eric Staal

Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe

Jordan Staal

Patrick Dwyer

Jeff Skinner

Riley Nash

Radek Dvorak

Drayson Bowman

Elias Lindholm

Kevin Westgarth

Brett Sutter

Defensemen

Andrej Sekera

Justin Faulk

Jay Harrison

Ryan Murphy

Brett Bellemore

Ron Hainsey

Mike Komisarek

Goaltenders

Cam Ward

Anton Khudobin

Injuries: Forward Tuomo Ruutu (IR - lower body), defensemen Tim Gleason (day-to-day, concussion) and Joni Pitkanen (LTIR - broken left heel bone)

The Red Wings made their Eastern Conference debut Wednesday night with a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in their home opener. Veterans Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored 36 seconds apart in the second period to provide enough offense for the win, while Jimmy Howard stopped 19 of 20 shots.

Daniel Alfredsson did not practice yesterday with the team but is expected to be in the lineup tonight.

Expected line-up based on Wednesday's game:

Forwards:
Justin Abdelkader - Pavel Datsyuk - Henrik Zetterberg
Johan Franzen - Stephen Weiss - Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Cleary - Joakim Andersson - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Mikael Samuelsson

Defensemen:
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser - Jakub Kindl
Brendan Smith - Kyle Quincey

Goaltenders:
Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek

Injuries: Forwards Darren Helm (back), Jordin Tootoo (shoulder), and Patrick Eaves (IR - knee), goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (IR - groin)

Opening Day Festivities - check out more details at ch.com.

The Canes will be broadcasting the pre-game skate live today from PNC at 10:30 am, tune in online at ch.com. This will be a regular feature for every Friday home game throughout the season.

Starting at 5:00 pm tonight there will be a party on the South Plaza featuring the band New Sweat along with games, inflatables, and other activities. At the door, tonight's giveaway will be a New Storm drawstring bag, and former Hurricane Kevyn Adams will be signing autographs on the concourse.

Tailgate forecast is sunny with a high of 87 degrees.

The game thread will open at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.

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