The red hot Carolina Hurricanes scored 3 times in the first period, then relied upon their defense and goalie Cam Ward the rest of the way as they held on to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-0. The win gives the Canes 5 wins in a row as well as a record of 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
Eric Staal had 3 points in the period with a goal and 2 assists. It was the 4rth time in the past 8 games that Staal racked up 3 points in a game. The all-star center has 6 goals and 15 assists for 21 points in the last 13 games.
Matt Cullen and Erik Cole scored the other tallies for Carolina. Cam Ward had 25 saves to earn his 4rth shut out of the year, as well as the 6th in his career.
The team looked on fire during the opening period, then understandably, pretty much coasted the rest of the way. They drew 2 opening period penalties and scored on both powerplays. Apparently, too many cooks does not spoil the broth!
Eric Staal is down right unstoppable at times. He seems to out-reach and out-work everyone for the puck when he wants to get to it. The superstar has been nothing short of Hart Trophy material during the past few weeks.
Obviously, the defense and Cam Ward played very well. Glen Wesley returned to action and the Canes played 7 defensemen, dividing the time up pretty evenly. Wesley played the fewest minutes of the bunch with 12 minutes and Gleason played the most at about 22 minutes.
Ray Whitney and Wade Brookbank remained out.
In the third period, Matt Cullen took a nasty, off-balance hit from Dave Bolland and landed awkwardly on his head/shoulder area. He never returned to the ice, but did return to the bench near the end of the game. Hopefully, he will be all right. The team can ill-afford to lose Cullen.
The ex-Blackhawks, Ruutu and Samsonov each had an assist, so they seemed happy.
The ex-Hurricanes had a mixed night. Andrew Ladd seemed to be fired up and was hitting anything in a white sweater that he could find, including best buddy Eric Staal. Craig Adams also played well. He had a couple of good hits and a sweet move toward the net that had Ward beat, but he hit the post with the shot. I thought Kevyn Adams was a bit rusty, but he has hardly played in months, so that was not surprising.
There was a lot of talk during the broadcast of all of the trading with the Blackhawks, but one trade that wasn't mentioned was the Danny Richmond for Anton Babchuk trade. I always liked Richmond, although I admit that he tried too much to be a tough guy, given his small stature.
I came across a Danny Richmond blog recently on the Hockey Herald, which was an interesting read. It's a typical player blog in that it has not been updated much, but one entry gives some of the differences between life in the AHL, versus life in the NHL. It's pretty funny. The NHL of course uses chartered jets to travel. The AHL uses chartered buses. While the post-game meal is served on the plane and consists of steak for the NHL players, the minor leaguers get sandwiches. Yummy!
Speaking of the Danny Richmond, Anton Babchuk trade, Babchuk is technically still Hurricanes property even though he is currently playing in the Russian Super League where he had scored 8 goals so far through December. In case anyone forgot, Babchuk rubbed management the wrong way last year when he refused an assignment to Albany, and was eventually suspended. After the Hurricanes lifted the suspension, he went to Albany for a short time, but returned to Raleigh only to be healthy scratched the rest of the season.
I'll pose this for my next poll question. Do you think Babchuk should be invited back to training camp next year? We'll talk more about this later after I see the results.
The latest poll ended with over 90% of you thinking that Aaron Voros should have been given some type of suspension for that dangerous hit on Eric Staal a few games back. I also think that at least a 1 game suspension should have been awarded.
Next up for the Canes is a bruised and battered Buffalo team at the HSBC on Friday night. Much more about that later.....