The Hurricanes are in southern Florida again to take on the Panthers tonight. The only problem is that the puddy cats are still steamed about the way they lost control of that freaky game last week when the Canes scored 5 goals in 9 minutes and 6 goals total in the 3rd period and took over and won a game which the Panthers thought they had control over. Olli Jokinen said he was embarrassed about how that game turned out and his teammates were not very happy about it either. They will be looking for redemption tonight, for sure.
The Canes are still licking their wounds from that tough game against the Thrashers on Saturday night. They spent extra time working on their shoot out moves in practice since then. So far they have only made one shot in 11 and have a record of 0-3 when forced into a shoot out. At least they won't have to worry about that if they make the playoffs! It has been reported that Glen Wesley is healthy enough to play tonight and will probably ease his way into the lineup. Laviolette likes to play 7 defensemen anyway, so that means one of the forwards will probably sit. But then again, who knows. If he has enough confidence in Glen's health he could sit Hutchinson and keep the forwards at 12. We'll have to see what happens at game time. I just hope he doesn't sit Andrew Ladd. He's getting to the point that he needs all the playing time he can get so that he can develop. The more he sits the bench or is scratched, the harder it is for Andrew to learn what it takes to make it in this league.
Tim Gleason has been practicing with the team and is hoping to return to action on Thursday. The team physician still has to clear him though. It's not cat scratch fever, but Justin Williams has been sick with flu-like symptoms and was excused from the past couple of practices as well as the "Skate with the Canes" charity event on Sunday. He did fly with the team yesterday to Florida but we'll have to hope that he is feeling better by game time. Finally, Frank Kaberle practiced without the dreaded blue "don't touch me jersey" yesterday which means he was taking hits in practice and is that much closer to returning to action. It's still looking like early February for his return.
In other news, congratulations go to Eric Staal and Justin Williams for making the all star game! It was reported that Rod Brind'Amour was invited, but has inflamation of his foot and declined the offer. The all star break is next week, so we'll talk more about that later.
This should be another tough game tonight. While we all know that any team in this league could beat another team on any given night, the Panthers have played very well of late especially at home and just came off an impressive thrashing of the Capitals on Saturday. They have a very respectable home record of 12-8-2 plus have the extra incentive of playing the franchise's 1,000th game tonight. On top of all that, last week is still fresh in the Panther's minds and I believe that they will come out scratching and clawing tonight, doing almost anything for a win. This might all add up to be too much for the Canes tonight, but we'll have to wait and see. That's why they play the games! Go Canes!