The Philadelphia Flyers are in town to play the Hurricanes tonight, and I would be remiss if I didn't say the words "cheap shot" in the same breath as "Flyers". What is it with these guys? Scott Hartnell, whom I've already lambasted on this blog for being the most over-paid agitator in the league, was just suspended by the NHL for 2 days for a hit on Andrew Alberts of the Bruins. While Alberts is no angel, in this case he was on his knees along the boards, and Hartnell basically hip checked his head against the boards, knocking him down pretty hard. I don't understand why some of these guys just can't seem to resist the urge to hit someone when they are most vulnerable. This is the 4rth such suspension for the Flyers so far this young season. Randy Jones was sent packing for 2 days for a hit from behind on Patrice Bergeron, who still hasn't returned to action and it's been a month. Steve Downie was suspended for 20 games during the preseason for a hit to the head of Dean McAmmond, and our old friend Jesse Boulerice was suspended a record 25 games for a cross check to the face of Vancouver's Ryan Kessler. As I mentioned after Jesse's suspension, I don't remember him doing anything dirty while he was here at Carolina and his primary role was that of enforcer. New Flyers coach John Stevens must think he's still coaching the Phantoms, or something. It can't be in the Gatorade over there. I know I wouldn't want to be on the ice with those guys anymore than I would want to go on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney! Keep your heads up Hurricanes!
The Canes are coming off a road loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night and have lost 4 of their past 6, so they should be looking to get back on the winning side of things. The bad news is that they have only beaten the Flyers 3 times out the past 15 meetings. I wasn't aware of that stat until I heard Chuck Kaiton mention it after the loss to them last week. That's right, the Canes just lost to this same team last week, 6-3, in a penalty filled nightmare. Justin Williams took 8 minutes of penalties alone in that game. Since then, Justin shaved his head and has stayed out of the box. I'm not sure if one thing has anything to do with the other! Some good news for Carolina is that Scott Walker is scheduled to play tonight! Scott has missed 17 games due to torn cartilage in his chest. Hopefully Walker will be able to play up to his normal standards without being in too much discomfort.
The main question for coach Laviolette now, is who do you bench to make room for Walker? Andrew Ladd might be the odd man out, since he hasn't really done much noticable since his return from injury. Jeff Hamilton is too valuable on the powerplay and Craig Adams and Trevor Letowski both are used on the penalty kill. (not that the PK has been anything to brag about!). I have not seen any official word yet, so we'll have to keep an eye out for that. Cam Ward should be back between the pipes. Mike Commodore will be out, nursing his broken finger, so look for Dennis Seidenberg or David Tanabe to fill in on defense. Don't forget the Brind'Amour figurine give-away to the first 10K fans!
There is still a lot of conjecture about the Toronto situation and their apparent interest in Jim Rutherford. As I have said before, there is no way I think they are seriously interested in Ron Francis even though his name has been bantered about. But Rutheford on the otherhand... it makes me wonder. "Hurricanes Insider", "Carolina on Ice", and I have been tracking the rumor mill all week on this. It's interesting to watch! In this recent article in the Globe and Mail, Rutherford had "no comment". The article said that Canes owner Peter Karmanos would not stand in the way if JR wanted to make a move. Those aren't exactly the words I wanted to see! I'm not even going to speculate on this yet, but it's fascinating to watch, so I'll keep watching. In the meantime, there's a big game tonight!
John Cougar Mellancamp