SB Nation Rival Blog: In Lou We Trust
Hurricanes Record: 34-32-11 | 79 pts | 7th Metro | 12th EC
Devils Record: 33-28-16 | 82 pts | 5th Metro | 10th EC
Games Remaining: 5
Estimated Points Needed: 92
Points Back: 13 (unpossible)
Playoff Chances (Sports Club Stats): 0.6%
Tragic Number: 5
The Canes and Devils meet tonight for the fourth and final time this season. The two teams swapped wins over the Thanksgiving holiday, then the Devils gained the series advantage with a 5-4 win in Newark on March 8th.
The Hurricanes head into tonight's game on a bit of a roll, having gained points in their last five games (3-0-2 and tying their longest points stretch of the season), and with two big wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and most recently the Dallas Stars Thursday night here at PNC.
The Devils arrive in town coming off an emotional 2-1 home win against the Washington Capitals last night. Dressing only eleven forwards, at one point in the third period they were down to only seven available forwards but were able to persevere and pick up two points that loom large coming down to the final stretch for the playoffs. The Devils are 3-0-3 in their last six games.
With both teams on the outside of the playoff race looking in, there are still a few questions to be answered going into tonight's game.
1. How likely is it for any of the Eastern Conference outliers to actually make it into that last playoff spot? Well, for the Canes, all but mathematically impossible, as indicated above (tragic number 5). As for the others...
Detroit is starting to pull away a little, but the Columbus Blue Jackets, currently occupying the last wild card spot, left the door open last night when they lost a heartbreaker to the Blackhawks with less than five seconds left in regulation. They have 85 points, are on pace for 91 points, and can max out at 95. The team next most likely to catch them is New Jersey, three points behind with five games remaining, and with the possibility of winning the first tie-breaker which is regulation and overtime wins (tragic number 8). The Leafs are only one point behind Columbus, but have one fewer game left to play and cannot win the tie-breaker (tragic number 7). The Caps are four points behind and also cannot win the tie-breaker (tragic number 6).
2. Do the Devils have enough forwards to fill their roster tonight? The Devils only dressed eleven forwards last night, then lost Patrik Elias (upper body) in the first period, Adam Henrique (groin) in the second period, and Jacob Josefson (left foot) in the third. Bryce Salvador (undisclosed), Stephen Gionta (lower body), and Ryane Clowe (upper body) all remain questionable. Steve Bernier and Tim Sestito (healthy scratches) will likely draw in to the lineup, but the Devils may still need a recall for fresh legs, as the remaining forwards logged heavy minutes last night.
3. What's with all the mileage being logged between Raleigh and Charlotte? Chris Terry and Zach Boychuk, both with the Canes under emergency recall circumstances, were reassigned to the Checkers yesterday and played last night in San Antonio (Boychuk scored his AHL-leading 33rd goal off an assist from Terry). This likely means that at least two of Alexander Semin (illness), Drayson Bowman (illness), and Jiri Tlusty (upper body) are ready to return to the roster.
4. Who is in net tonight? Neither team has confirmed a starting netminder. For the Canes, it is likely Anton Khudobin, coming off his strong performance Thursday night. Dobby did not fare as well when the teams met on March 8th, being replaced by Cam Ward after giving up four goals, but his .931 save percentage is currently second-best in the NHL and on pace to set a Hurricanes season record. Cory Schneider won second star honors for the Devils last night with a 24-save performance, but Devils' head coach Pete DeBoer was hesitant to declare tonight's starter, which leads one to think Schneider might get the nod over Martin Brodeur if he feels rested enough for back-to-back games.
5. So, Jamie, anything else you want to talk about going into tonight's game? I'm not going to lie. I struggled a little over this preview. Go Canes, but Tuomo Ruutu is my favorite hockey player. It will be an emotional return for him personally and for many Canes fans who enjoyed what he brought to the organization for parts of the last seven seasons. Fans last saw him here prior to his bronze medal performance in Sochi, followed by a long road trip and then the trade to the Devils, and then scoring the game-winner against his former team just three nights later. Hopefully tonight will provide a chance to say thanks for all the memories.
The Canes will be skating this morning prior to tonight's game, but the practice is closed to the public because of an event being held at PNC Arena.
Fan Appreciation Week continues tonight, starting with a South Plaza party prior to game time. Everyone attending the game will receive a team poster, and after the game the players will participate in their annual Jerseys off their Backs giveaway. It's Stormy's birthday, which always means extra mascot fun. Check the Promotions page for more details.
We'll have the game thread ready to roll by 6:30 pm. See you there.