March 18, 2013 - 7:00 p.m. EDT
Madison Square Garden - New York, NY
TV: FS Carolinas / Radio: 99.9 The Fan
Hurricanes Record: 15-11-1, 31 points, 2nd in Southeast Division
Rangers Record: 13-12-2, 28 points, 4th in Atlantic Division
The Hurricanes have played more than half of their schedule, are just over a month away from the end of the season, and have faced four of the five teams from the Atlantic Division, posting a 5-1-1 record in those seven games. Monday night, they face the fifth, the New York Rangers, for the first time.
Saturday night, the Hurricanes dropped a 4-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their second straight loss. At the same time, the Rangers were busy losing their third in a row, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Joni Pitkanen returned from the infirmary on Saturday in Tampa, playing a shade over 20 minutes while blocking three shots and firing three of his own. The other Finn on the Canes' injured list, Tuomo Ruutu, has not been activated from the non-roster injured list yet but is on the road trip with the team and looks to be returning sooner rather than later, although with no morning skate it's highly unlikely that Ruutu will play tonight.
Seven hours before Saturday's game, the Canes acquired Adam Hall off waivers from Tampa Bay, causing a surreal situation for the veteran forward as he changed locker rooms following the morning skate. Hall played 9:38 on Saturday night and, according to the Canes' media relations department, was the first player since Glen Metropolit on Feb. 27, 2009 for Montreal (against Philadelphia) to play against his former team on the day he was acquired.
Although coach Kirk Muller has not announced a starting goaltender yet, the uninformed opinion is that Dan Ellis will try to get the Canes back on a winning track. Ellis lost his most recent start, a 3-2 loss to the Capitals on Thursday night, and sports a 1-1 record against the Atlantic Division this season, beating the Devils 6-3 just over a week ago in Raleigh.
Two point streaks are on the line tonight, both from the Canes' first line which provided the team's only tally on Saturday. Eric Staal (1g, 4a) and Alexander Semin (2g, 4a) each have at least a point in four straight games dating back to the game against New Jersey. The third member of the top line, Jiri Tlusty, is knocking on the door of 100 career points, needing four to reach triple digits.
Tonight's game is the first of the Canes' sixth set of back-to-back games this season. They have an 8-2 record in back-to-back games, and are 4-1 in the front half of back-to-back sets.
John Tortorella lit into his charges with one of his patented eruptions on Tuesday night, following the Rangers' 3-1 loss to Buffalo. That memorable rant inspired the Rangers to two more losses, to Winnipeg and Pittsburgh, dropping the Rangers to fourth in the tight Atlantic Division, one point behind the third-place Islanders but only one ahead of last-place Philadelphia.
Tortorella almost never reveals his starting goaltenders, but it would be surprising if it wasn't Henrik Lundqvist (11-11-1, 2.30, .919), who carries a personal four-game losing streak into the game and has not won a game since March 7. Lundqvist is 11-8-1 against Carolina in his career, but he has not faced the Canes since November 11, 2011, a 5-1 Rangers win at the Garden.
Three Rangers are on the team's injured list, including Marc Staal. The brother of Canes centers Eric and Jordan remains out indefinitely after being hit in the face with a puck on March 5 against the Flyers, delaying the first time all three Staals would be on the same ice in NHL competition.
With the Canes on a poor run of form lately, a game against an Atlantic Division opponent might be just what the doctor ordered. One losing streak will end tonight, and should the Canes break their two-game slide, they will wake up Tuesday morning atop the Southeast Division yet again.
Join us in the open game thread at 6:30 to find out if that happens.