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Fire and Ice

Which Carolina Hurricanes team will we see tonight? The one which looks like a Stanley Cup Champion or the one which can't kill penalties or get any decent scoring chances on their power play? Caniacs have certainly witnessed both ends of the spectrum this year. The only consistency fans have seen is that the team is consistently, inconsistent. The good news is that the Hurricanes are not alone. Other than the top three or four teams in the conference, everyone else has been inconsistent as well. Buffalo and New Jersey have had short slides, but for the most part have played well the whole year. After slow starts, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay have both been on tears for the past month. While Pittsburgh looks like they have the talent to continue, the Lightning are relying on Johan Holmqvist, a goalie who played in Sweden last year and who couldn't cut it in the NHL in previous years. One would wonder how long before the shoe drops with him. Other than those four teams, everyone else in the conference is in the same boat as the Canes, if not worse. Atlanta has lost 6 of their last 7. Montreal has been on an ugly slide for two months now and dropped from 3rd in the conference earlier this year, to being out of the playoff picture at the present time. If the Hurricanes can fight through all this adversity that they have suffered through including the constant barrage of injuries, it could make them one formidable playoff foe in April and May.

Speaking of injuries, there is an update regarding the fallen Canes. Officially, Bret Hedican did not suffer a concussion and will be listed as day to day. This means he will not be put on the NHL's special concussion list which requires the passing of extra tests and a mandatory waiting period before he can play again. That's good news! I doubt very much that Bret will play tonight though. Justin Williams is also very doubtful for tonight. It was finally released in the News and Observer that he has a back problem. Cory Stillman has not practiced and will not play. Erik Cole did practice yesterday and is possible for tonight. We will see.

I've received several questions about Cam Ward's new mask. The Hurricanes website finally has some information about it, which I will share here. The Nickelback mask which received so much publicity earlier this year has been officially retired for now. The new mask has a local theme and has landmarks from the state of North Carolina! The front of the mask has a Hurricanes logo on top with the familiar "WARDO" along the bottom.

On the right side of his mask is the Wright brothers plane that they flew in Kitty Hawk, along with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

On the left side is the USS North Carolina which is docked in Wilimington.

On the back is the familiar cross and tribute to his late grandfather Frank Ward.

I think he did a very nice job with it and I like this mask much better than his previous ones. For a link to the entire story you can check it here Mask Story

John Grahame also had a change to his mask. It's a much different theme than Cam's, but still captures the local spirit.

Okay, enough about goalie masks. The Canes have a huge game tonight against another struggling team desperate for a win. The Montreal crowd will be tough to deal with, but the Canes have played very well in that climate before. Can they do it again? The game will be on Fox Sports South which means we won't have to watch the French broadcast! Go Canes!

Pat Benatar

P.S. One more thing. In the forum we are having contests in which you can predict the winning score for each game. Winners get a rookie card or you can just participate for the fun of it. It just takes a second to register, feel free to come on in and have some fun with us! Click on the "CanesCountry Forum" link on the left then find the "Contests" section. Good Luck!