It's another game tonight and another "must win" for the Carolina Hurricanes as they take on the Washington Capitals. On paper, you would think that this should be an easy win for Carolina. Washington is in last place in the division and has nothing of substance to play for. They also just lost to Buffalo last night and will probably be a bit tired. But playing game after game under intense pressure can wear on a team. The Canes have played several games in a row under this "must win" train of thought, can they keep up the high intensity without faltering under the pressure or stress? I think the best thing for them to do is to try not to think too much about the consequences of losing, just focus on their effort shift to shift and period to period. Just "play the game"!! Of course I'm probably just wasting my time typing all of this because Carolina is a veteran squad which has been through the wars and has won the Cup. I doubt the pressure will get to them, but it does get to some teams at times. Last week I'm sure that Leafs and Bolts fans thought their respective teams would beat the Caps. They were wrong. Washington soundly beat the Leafs 5-1 and then went on to thump the Bolts, 7-1. Hopefully the Canes will come out with some fire right from the get go because it's pretty easy for a team to start a game flat after taking several days off. By the way if you haven't got tickets for this one, you might be out of luck. The Canes are saying that there are just "standing room only" tickets available for this game as well as Saturday night's contest against the Sharks. Although you can always try your luck with scalpers outside the arena. They always seem to have tickets to sell.
As far as points go, at the moment the Canes are in a 3 way tie with Toronto and Montreal for 8th place in the Conference with 80 points. The Islanders are just one point behind with 79. Tampa Bay is in 6th with 84 points and the Rangers have 83 and are in 7th. That makes 6 teams fighting for 3 playoff spots and obviously every single point earned or lost is crucial. I'm not even going to get into the tie breaking scenarios and rules yet, but let's just hope it doesn't come to that for the Canes! As coach Laviolette was quoted as saying, "This is exciting stuff!"
As was mentioned in an earlier post, Cam Ward will be suited up again tonight after being out about 10 days with a cut and stitched up leg. Will he play? I doubt it, but I guess stranger things have happened. The Hurricanes are coming off their best performance of the year, a 7-2 trouncing of New Jersey on Saturday where they chased future hall of fame goalie Martin Brodeur to the bench early in the 2nd period. They also scored 2 goals while on their previously anemic power play. Can they keep up the scoring spree? I would expect the lines to be the same as they were against the Devils, - Staal, Stillman, Cole, - Brind'Amour, Whitney, Williams, - LaRose, Walker, Ladd, - and Vasicek, Carter, Adams. The defense will probably also remain the same, Gleason, Wallin, Wesley, Commie, Tanabe, and Kaberle. Hopefully the Canes can score early and often and keep up the production with the man advantage.
A few games ago, I mentioned that some of the Canes were using pink sticks during the warm-ups which would be auctioned off later and the proceeds would be going toward breast cancer research. Those auctions are ongoing right now. I'm posting a link to the auction of each available player's stick. Just click the name and bid away!
Scott Walker...Andrew Hutchinson...Anton Babchuk...Rod Brind'Amour...Mike Commodore...Bret Hedican...Justin Williams...Cam Ward...Chad LaRose...Eric Staal...Cory Stillman...Dennis Seidenberg...Craig Adams...Joe Vasicek...David Tanabe...Ray Whitney...Trevor Letowski...Niclas Wallin...Glen Wesley...Frantisek Kaberle...John Grahame...Erik Cole...Tim Gleason
Good luck if you want one of those sticks and good luck to the Canes tonight!