The Carolina Hurricanes are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you will get. After going on a four game winning streak and looking like a team paving a legitimate road to the playoffs, they have now lost two games in a row and have looked like anything but a playoff team.
The Ottawa Senators on the other hand have been much more consistent in their losing ways. Their local media is calling them out big time and everyone from the equipment manager to the general manager could be on the chopping block. Highly paid goaltender Martin Gerber has been healthy scratched of late and is rumored soon to be on the waiver wire as AHL call up Brian Elliott will make his second consecutive start tonight.
The game brings added drama as Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves return to familiar haunts for the first time since Ottawa traded them to Carolina last year. Eaves has nothing but good things to say about his time in Ottawa, but Corvo couldn't have been happier with his departure. In his two previous games against his former mates, he has clicked for two game-winning goals and even had a hat trick in the game last year.
In this article, Corvo mentions that you need to have a thick skin to play in that town and even calls some of the fans "fair-weather".
It takes guys with thick skin to play here," Corvo said. "It takes a lot of restraint for me to sit here and not go crazy about some of the [media]."
Corvo said he wasn't surprised to get to Ottawa and discover front-page headlines Sunday devoted to the Senators' struggles -- and the "excuses," as one headline put it.
"That's the way it is," he said. "It's especially tough here in Ottawa. We're going to get a lot of fair-weather fans, too, because a lot of fans around here were fans of Montreal before [the Senators] were here. When we played Montreal or Toronto, there was maybe more fans for them than for us."
The media does seem to take things to more of a personal level up there. In any event, look for the defenseman to get booed every time he touches the puck tonight.
There is still no official word about who will start in goal, but according to John Forslund, Tim Gleason has recovered and will most likely play tonight.
((Update 16:00)) Cam Ward will start in net according to Canes Now.
Justin Williams and Sergei Samsonov are both getting hot. Williams has four points in his last four games while Samsonov has seven points in his last six games.
Rod Brind'Amour continues his slump. His NHL worst (-27) is now getting league-wide recognition and The Hockey News talks about it a bit here.
The Sens have lost five in a row and will be more than desperate. Will the Canes have an answer to Chris Neil? They better keep their heads up, Carolina could be entering a real hornet's nest tonight. Game starts at 7:30 and will be broadcast by FS Carolinas.
For more information about Ottawa, Adam has supplied another scouting report. Thanks Adam!
Only the New York Islanders have fewer points than the Sens. They are a desperate group, but the main problem is they're not playing that way. The team has been surrounded by rumors of the GM being fired, the coach being fired, players being traded and $3 million-a-year goalies being scratched. You can see in their play on the ice that the rumors are affecting them. For the Hurricanes to win, they will need to get shots on goal — from anywhere — with Brian Elliott expected to make his second NHL start. He did not play poorly in his first game — a loss — but he is a rookie NHL goalie in a hockey-crazed city on a team searching for an identity. If the Canes can get to him early, there's a good chance they will win.
Carolina also needs to contain the Daniel Alfredsson-Jason Spezza-Dany Heatley trio. Coach Craig Hartsburg has decided to reunite his top line with the hope that he will get some offense out of a team that has produced little to none. While Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice is not much for matchups, it makes you wonder if he'll try to get the tandem of Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason (if he plays) against that line. If the Canes can contain those three, half the battle will be won.
What to watch: More than anything, watch the Senators effort in the first period. When they score first, they only win about half the time, and when are trailing after one, they have the worst winning percentage in the NHL. Carolina can benefit by getting to them fast and then pouring it on — this has not been a come-from-behind team. The lack of offense from the blueline is also worth keeping an eye on, especially if they are without their best all-around defenseman, Anton Volchenkov.