The Florida Panthers are in town to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in another Southeast Showdown for the Canes. This will be the Panthers first game back in the states since opening their season in Helsinki, Finland where they split a double bill with the Chicago Blackhawks. Florida won the first game in a shootout as Tomas Vokoun made 52 saves, but lost the next contest decisively, 4-0.
After tonight's game, the Hurricanes will hop on a flight to Tampa Bay for another game against the Lightning on Saturday night.
At the morning skate earlier today, the team looked focused and ready to go. Joni Pitkanen was not on the ice and Paul Maurice told the media after the skate that the defenseman still was not ready to play. This seems to be Pitkanen's decision because the team is happy with the recovery process so far.
"It's more about how he feels," Maurice said. "We're real happy about the way the knee looks, his strength and all that. But he's not ready to go, and confidence and a comfort is so important for a defenseman."
In the meantime, look for the defensive pairings to be Corvo/Gleason, Ward/Wallin, and Alberts/Harrison. Pitkanen could still play on Saturday, depending upon how he feels.
I asked Joe Corvo if there was any special strategy or key to beating the Panthers tonight.
"Not really. I hate to say it, but it's almost boring the way teams play each other these days. Everyone plays a form of the trap and they clog things up in the middle of the ice. Then you have the parity in the league. Anyone can beat anyone else on a given night. I think it boils down to mistakes. The team that makes the fewest mistakes, and can play their game, will have the advantage."
Corvo leads the team in ice time so far as he averages almost 29 minutes per game, (28:51). The next closest Hurricane is Tim Gleason at 23 minutes. Obviously, Corvo is being called upon to pick up much of the void left by the absence of Joni Pitkanen. "So far so good" as the player has yet to grace the scoreboard, but he does have an even plus/minus with seven shots on goal.
The forward lines should be the same as for the Tampa Bay game on Tuesday:
- Staal, Ruutu, Samsonov
- Whitney, Cullen, LaRose
- Brind'Amour, Walker, Jokinen
- Yelle, Kostopoulos, Conboy
Cam Ward will be in net tonight and might possibly go again tomorrow night. I asked Michael Leighton if he was given any word about tomorrow night and he said that a decision would be made after the game tonight. "But Wardo has been looking good on back to backs, so we will see," he said.
As we mentioned earlier on the blog, tonight's game is the Hurricanes' "Hockey Fights Cancer Night", so there will be some extra festivities regarding that. Julie Walker, wife of Scott Walker and cancer survivor, will be sounding the Hurricane warning siren along with her two children. For more information, check out this link.
Florida won the season series between these teams last year with a 3-2-1 record. But the Canes have a lifetime mark of 41-27-12-1 against the Panthers and they are 26-11-3 at home.
This game will mark the return of former Hurricane defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to the RBC and of course Cory Stillman is always dangerous against his former mates.
But Ray Whitney also does well against his former team, (Panthers), and has scored 26 points in 29 games against them.
It should be another good one tonight. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Our friends at FS Carolinas will have the game along with 99.9 The Fan.