The Hurricanes are just five games into the season, and already several questions have come up about the team related to the big game tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. Let's take a quick look at some of those questions and guess as to what the answers might be.
1. Who will start in goal?
Michael Leighton has certainly earned another start with his solid performance on Sunday night, but if Cam Ward is still officially the number one guy, do you go back to him so not to ruin his confidence this early in the season?
(My guess is that Leighton earned the start and will get the nod)
2. Will they recall another forward, short-term?
Tuomo Ruutu is still injured and is doubtful for the game. That leaves the Canes with 11 healthy forwards. Will the team recall someone from Albany, like Dwight Helminen or will they start with seven defensemen? There has been no word about recalling anyone up until now, although Helminen would look good centering the fourth line. Matt Cullen was moved to wing and Brandon Sutter has taken his spot as third line center.
(My guess is that they will go with seven defensemen tomorrow night and double shift Staal on the "centerless" fourth line.)
3. Will they acquire another forward, long term?
There has been plenty of conjecture and rumor around the league about the Hurricanes shopping the market for another forward. A week or so ago, Jim Rutherford even admitted on carolinahurricanes.com that he was trying to trade a defenseman for a forward. That was before the injury to Frank Kaberle, but the Canes are still deeper at the blueline than they are on offense. Casey Borer and Bryan Rodney are just a phone call away and were both very close to making the team back in training camp.
There have been a few names bantered about out there as trade bait. Petr Prucha from the Rangers has been healthy scratched of late. Matt Stajan of the Leafs is apparently in Ron Wilson's doghouse. Although it's hard to believe, the Canes have even been mentioned in Marian Gaborik rumors.
NHL general managers have a meeting tomorrow morning, so look for even more rumors to come out tomorrow afternoon.
(My guess is that the Canes will eventually acquire another forward, although I won't guess who)
4. Will the new line changes help or hurt the scoring?
Paul Branecky is reporting that Coach Laviolette has changed the lines up a bit. Matt Cullen is now with Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney. Sergei Samsonov and Patrick Eaves are being moved to Eric Staal's line. Eaves and Samsonov have both been quiet on the scoresheet so far this year and the reasoning is that Staal might help get them going. But will the change have the opposite affect? Will it slow down Eric Staal?
If the new lines don't work, I would look for more changes throughout the game.
(My guess is that the new line will work out fine. Samsonov has worked well with Staal before, plus this line looked good together in the preseason. They could very well shine again)
5. Will game-day travel adversely affect the team?
Not only are the Hurricanes skipping pre-game skates, (they have done this all season), but now they have also decided to wait and fly to Pittsburgh tomorrow morning, the same day of the game. While the change might not seem like such a big deal at first glance, it's almost like re-inventing the wheel if you compare this with NHL tradition. Teams have done this for preseason games before, but it is very unusual otherwise.
Coach Laviolette claims that it will not disturb the normal routines of the players at all. Jim Rutherford is not complaining because the change in routine will save thousands on hotel bills.
(I'm not sure how I feel about this one. The team is traditionally a slow starting team anyway, and this change will probably not help to fix that problem.)
Have any more questions, or answers of your own?
In other brief news, Zach Boychuk returned to Lethbridge without incident, and promptly scored a goal in his first game back. Best of luck to Zach for another outstanding season.
Mark Parrish just accepted a try-out contract with the New York Islanders. Apparently, someone is singing a different tune than he did during training camp.
Finally, in case you missed it there is some funny stuff about Mike Commodore in this Puck Daddy Blog article.