Can the Hurricanes close out the series against the Sabres with another win?
Carolina Hurricanes vs Buffalo Sabres
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 7:00 pm EST
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas Radio - 99.9 The Fan
Hurricanes Record: 12-8-1 (25 pts.)
Sabres Record: 9-12-2 (20 pts.)
The Carolina Hurricanes wrap up their regular season three-game series against the Buffalo Sabres tonight. The Canes and Sabres played home and away back-to-back games early in the season with the Hurricanes winning both. Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner combined for five goals in a 6-3 win at home on January 24th, and Alexander Semin notched his first goal as a Hurricane and Dan Ellis had a 40-save performance in a 3-1 win in Buffalo on January 25th.
The Hurricanes come into tonight's game with a three-game winning streak including back-to-back wins against the Florida Panthers over the weekend.
Those games were not without a steep cost, as the Hurricanes lost starting netminder Cam Ward for what appears to be the remainder of the regular season. Ward suffered an MCL sprain to his left knee after a collision in the net midway through the second period on Sunday, and he is projected to be out for 6 to 8 weeks.
Dan Ellis, strong in relief Sunday while battling through an illness, will take over starting goaltender responsibilities. Ellis has done a fine job backing up Ward so far this season, with a 3-2-0 record that includes a shutout, a .923 save percentage, and 2.53 GAA.
Yesterday the Hurricanes announced the recall of Justin Peters from the Charlotte Checkers (news release, which also places Ward on IR). Peters will join the team today. While the recall is deemed an emergency, recent changes in the CBA will require Peters to pass through waivers to return to Charlotte if he plays in more than 10 games. Given the timeframe for Ward's return, it's likely he will surpass that tenure. Peters has a 22-12-1 record and 2.29 GAA in 37 games this season in Charlotte.
It is impossible to give too much hype these days to the team's top scoring line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, and Jiri Tlusty. In addition to their scoring prowess (17 points in the last three games), which has them in the rarified air of the NHL's elite (this is so pretty), all three players lead the NHL in plus/minus at +15.
Justin Faulk continues to hold the blue line steady, contributing with points, minutes, plenty of grit when needed, and all while staying out of the penalty box. Faulk leads the team in both total time on ice and average TOI per game (23:49) and leads defensemen with 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists).
The team did not practice yesterday and there have been no updates since Sunday's game except for the Cam Ward situation. At that time Tim Brent (lower body), Joni Pitkanen (lower body), and Chad LaRose (concussion-like symptoms) were all classified as day-to-day. We will hopefully learn more after this morning's pre-game skate.
When the Sabres visited Raleigh in late January, it was early in the season and they had won their first two games, while the Hurricanes had lost their first two. The back-to-back series changed the fortune for both as the Hurricanes began their climb up the Eastern Conference standings while the Sabres began to fall. The Sabres' frustrations culminated with the firing of long-time head coach Lindy Ruff on Feb 20th. Under the leadership of new head coach Ron Rolston they are starting to make a slow climb back up in the standings and have picked up points in four out of six games since Rolston took over.
There's a chance this game could go into extra innings tonight, as 5 out of the last 10 games between the Canes and Sabres at PNC have gone into overtime (Canes hold 4-0-1 record). The Sabres have taken their last three games to a shootout, winning two before suffering a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Forward Patrick Kaleta is out of the lineup as he serves the first of a five-game suspension for boarding Brad Richards in Sunday's game.
The Sabres are hopeful for the return tonight of forward Thomas Vanek, who has been out for two games with an upper-body injury. The Sabres top line of Vanek, Cody Hodgson, and Jason Pominville has been one of the most potent in the NHL, with 17 goals and leading line production for most of this season, only to have been caught recently by the aforementioned Staal/Semin/Tlusty.
Canes fans know to always watch out for Steve Ott. He's been hot as of late, setting up Nathan Gerbe's game-tying goal on Sunday, and has four assists in the last three games.
Ryan Miller will likely get the start in net tonight. Season to date his record is 9-10-2 with a 2.78 GAA and .917 save percentage. He is 12-8-4 with a 2.64 GAA in 24 career appearances against the Hurricanes. Backup netminder Jhonas Enroth is 0-2-0 this season with a 4.75 GAA and .847 save percentage.
Defensemen Jordan Leopold (upper body) and Alexander Sulzer (lower body) and forward Ville Leino (hip) are on injured reserve.
The Sabres also had an off-day on Monday and did not practice.
Brian will have more analysis on our opponent later in the day, and we'll start the game thread at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.