The Carolina Hurricanes continue to play at the Bell Centre in Montreal like it's their home ice. Cam Ward has yet to lose there. Erik Cole usually plays his best hockey there. Saturday night was no exception as the Hurricanes beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1, to make it nine victories in a row for them at "Habtown". Erik Cole started the scoring at the 4 minute mark with the help of great passing by Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen, and it went on from there.
Later in the 1st period, Eric Staal deflected in a Justin Williams shot to make it 2-0 and the rout was on. The Canes had 18 shots on goal in the opening period alone and played a complete game, very similar to the Rangers game a few nights ago. The defense was very good and the back-checking was there, but when the team needed Cam Ward's services in goal he was more than equal to the task as he made several excellent saves including one spectacular save on an Alexei Kovalev attempt during a 5 on 3 penalty kill in the 3rd period. Rod Brind'Amour scored his 14th goal of the season while Ray Whitney rounded it out with 2 tallies of his own, numbers 13 and 14.
Coach Peter Laviolette scrambled the lines again and the boys seemed to respond to it. Chad LaRose was reunited on the familiar line with Brind'Amour and Justin Williams. Scott Walker was moved to the Eric Staal, Cory Stillman line. Finally, Erik Cole was on the Matt Cullen, Ray Whitney line. These match-ups seemed to work very well as all three lines generated several chances. The 4rth line didn't play much until the 3rd period as Andrew Ladd and Trevor Letowski seemed to get worked into the game within the other lines when they played. Laviolette dressed 7 defensemen. Nic Wallin returned from his injury to play about 16 minutes. He had a couple of bad turnovers as he was understandably rusty at times, but otherwise seemed to do all right. The other defensemen held their own for the most part, but in my opinion Dennis Seidenberg continues to impress. Tim Gleason had an excellent game as well and earned 2nd star of the game honors. I wonder if coach will dress 8 defensemen when Commodore is ready to take the ice again?
Scott Walker answered the last question some people had in their minds about his recovery, as he fought the much taller Mike Komisarek in a long, spirited bout. Since Walker has returned from his injury, he really hasn't skirted away from physical contact. This fight proves that he really is back to his former self, (even if he isn't feeling at 100% yet).
The Hurricanes have no time to rest as they hop on a plane and fly to Detroit for a game in less than 24 hours at "The Joe". The 5PM start time is a bit unusual, but Carolina will have to do the best they can under the circumstances. One of the biggest questions will be who starts at goalie? Management seems to have little confidence in John Grahame lately because he has allowed 18 goals in the past 3 games. The general consensus seems to be to ride out Cam Ward for a while, but that can be a good way to burn out a young goalie. Wardo is very good, but he's no Martin Brodeur just yet and he's going to need rest eventually. In the meantime Michael Leighton just set a record for most shut-outs ever for the Albany franchise as he won another game 2-0 for the River Rats on Friday. He's rated as the number one goalie in the AHL. The Hurricanes have no shortage of great goalie prospects though as Kevin Nastiuk has had a good year as well in Albany. Justin Peters has a save percentage of .937 and a record of 10 - 4 for the Florida Everblades. Daniel Manzato, who is on loan to the Las Vegas Wranglers has yet to lose a game for them! His record is 7 - 0 with a GAA of 1.69. He has a save percentage of .948 and he's the top rated goalie in the entire ECHL! Peters is rated number 5 in the league. So the Canes have 2 goalies rated at the top of the minor leagues, but in the meantime, have a back-up here who the coaches are afraid to play because he's pretty much worthless at the moment? Something is wrong with this picture! I know that there are tricky waiver rules that have to be watched closely when you move players around, but what good is a back-up if you are afraid to play him?
The Detroit game should be another interesting one. Will the Canes have anything left in the tank, or will it be another fiasco like the Buffalo game? Detroit is playing the best hockey in the league right now, it's a shame that these teams can't match up when both have rested. If there is anything new to report between now and then, I'll try to have it here.
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