Hurricanes Record: 12-12-5 (29 pts.)
Sharks Record: 19-4-5 (43 pts.)
Wow, what a great road trip! A 4-1 division win Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, and a 5-2 win and a Jeff Skinner hat trick against the Predators last night in Nashville to pull within one point of third place in the Metro division. The Canes get a couple of nights to sleep in their own beds before jetting back off to Vancouver Saturday, but there is no rest for the weary as there is a little business to take care of tonight called the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks played the second game of a road trip themselves last night and it did not fare well as they were railroaded by the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-1, to snap a six-game win streak.
Updates today will be few and far between as both teams arrived in Raleigh late and won't hold a morning skate or media scrum. Here's what we know, look for minor updates in the comments and any major updates will get a headline.
The Hurricanes did not make it out of Music City unscathed, as Drayson Bowman (puck to the leg), Mike Komisarek (unknown lower body issue) and Patrick Dwyer (scary high stick to the eye area) had to leave the game early. Status of all three is unknown at this time.
Suffice it to say that the line of Eric Staal/Jeff Skinner/Tuomo Ruutu will likely remain intact. Since the line change two games ago, Skinner has five goals and six points, Staal has three assists (and 13 points in his last 12 games), and Ruuty is being Ruuty, banging bodies, digging out pucks, and screening goalies.
Last night Justin Faulk again gave USA Hockey a glimpse of what they could see in Sochi with a goal and two assists for his first career three-point game. Faulk has eight points in his last six games.
The Sharks will likely not be in a good mood after last night's loss to the Penguins (read about it on Fear The Fin), but they will be a formidable opponent tonight regardless. They rank first in the Pacific division, second in the Western Conference, and occupy either the first or second spot in all the major power rankings. Their special teams play (PP and PK) ranks near the middle of the pack, but they either lead the league or are no worse than top-ten in the league in most other categories on both ends of the ice. Despite their moderate success on special teams, they lead the league in both power play time and in PP-PK differential.
The Sharks are led by Joe Thornton with 31 points (5 goals, 26 assists) followed by Logan Couture (28 points) and Patrick Marleau (26 points), but rookie Tomas Hertl is their leading goal-scorer with 14 on the season. Wookie defenseman Brent Burns (who missed 13 games earlier in the season with an upper body issue) scored his first career hat trick on November 29th against St. Louis. Last night's regulation loss was the first of the season with Burns in the lineup.
Alex Stalock replaced Antti Niemi in net for the third period last night, and it's unknown whether Stalock will get the start or whether the Sharks will go back to Niemi. Niemi has started the last eight games for the Sharks and is 16-4-5 with a 2.31 GAA and .915 save percentage. Stalock is 3-0-0 with a 1.55 GAA and .944 save percentage.
Do a good deed tonight and drop off toys and pajamas at the arena to help Pajama Program of Raleigh and you'll be eligible to win several nice prizes (details here). We'll have the open game thread ready to roll at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.
Update: Hurricanes Recall Zach Boychuk From Charlotte
Here's the release from the Hurricanes:
‘CANES RECALL FORWARD ZACH BOYCHUK
Mike Komisarek placed on injured reserve
RALEIGH, NC – Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has recalled forward Zach Boychuk on emergency from Charlotte of the American Hockey League (AHL). In addition, the team has placed defenseman Mike Komisarek on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
Boychuk, 24, leads the Checkers in goals (9), assists (10) and points (19). The Airdrie, Alb., native has scored seven goals in the last nine games and is tied for first in the AHL in power-play goals (7). Carolina’s first-round selection, 14th overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Boychuk has totaled eight goals and 12 assists (20 points) in 85 career NHL games with Carolina, Pittsburgh and Nashville.