The Carolina Hurricanes announced this morning that defenseman Joni Pitkanen will be unable to participate in tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings. Pitkanen is running a fever and is ill. It looks like the team will slide Tim Conboy in at defense and will try to get by without a recall. If they go that route, expect five defensemen to carry a healthy load of playing time.
Newly acquired Manny Legace will be starting in goal. What does that mean for Michael Leighton? He is probably very disappointed, but he should keep his head right and be ready for action. If Legace stumbles, he could be right back in there. Regardless of how fair or unfair his benching is for tonight, Leighton has a good shot at getting some meaningful playing time if he outplays his new rival and that should be his focus right now.
Everyone knows about Carolina's troubles, their star players are out injured and the team can't seem to win for losing. They have a record of 2-11-3 and have lost 12 games in a row. (Would it make some feel better if I said "winless in 12"?)
The Kings, on the otherhand, have been playing good hockey and have 22 points along with a 10-6-2 record. Although, they are riding a two game losing streak.
Los Angeles is led by outstanding forward Anze Kopitar, who is first in the NHL with 28 points and is tied for first with 14 goals. The team also has Dustin Brown, Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams, and Alexander Frolov, each of whom are dangerous in their own right.
This is Justin Williams' first return to the RBC since the trade was completed which ended up sending Erik Cole back to Raleigh last Spring. Williams' 13 points in 13 games would lead the Canes, but is sixth best on the Kings. Cole has one goal and that one single point in six games for Carolina.
|2009 - Anze Kopitar||18||14||14||28||8||6||4||0||0||0||54||25.9|
Drew Doughty leads the defense, but keep an eye on Jack Johnson, who was originally drafted by the Canes but traded to the Kings after refusing to sign for Carolina. For those of you who might not remember, the youngster (and his father) preferred to stay in Michigan rather than to play for Carolina's Stanley Cup winning team in 2006. Jim Rutherford's relationship with Johnson and his father during their courtship was estranged, at best.
As mentioned above, Joni Pitkanen is out because of an illness, Eric Staal is out with an upper body concern, and Cam Ward is out with a sliced up leg. Ray Whitney is expected to return to the lineup as Zach Boychuk was returned to Albany over the weekend.
Chip Alexander has been busy of late, interviewing a down-trodden Joe Corvo and a surprisingly upbeat owner, Peter Karmanos. Corvo's interview reminded me of the television interview during one of the loses to the Pens last playoffs. He sounded deflated.
Karmanos had some interesting takes, for instance that he felt the Canes had a better team than the Penguins last year.
"Something happened. I don't think anybody could really figure out why we lost to Pittsburgh," he said. "After the first game in Pittsburgh, I told Jimmy (Rutherford) that I thought we were better than they were and I felt better about that series than I did about the first two."
Need I remind anyone that the last three games of that series weren't even close. It was not like the Canes blew the game in the final few moments, they failed to even make a competitive contest out of those games losing them, 7-4, 6-2, and 4-1.
Of course the team owner is still optimisitic about this season and feels the Canes are a great team with a great coaching staff. The only problem is, they are not playing that way.
As we review some stats before the game, the Canes are 30th in the league in points, point percentage, scoring, penalties taken, and in the 5 on 5 for/against ratio. They are 28th in goals allowed and have the 29th best powerplay. The team does not have single a player ranked in the top 100 scorers in the league, (Jussi Jokinen is ranked at 127).
It seems like the team has more problems than they can count and no one knows exactly why or what to do about it. But perhaps they can stem the tide in tonight's game against the Kings.
The game will be telecast starting at 7 by FS Carolinas in HD and is of course is broadcast on 99.9 The Fan.
Note: I am officially back from vacation. Another year has gone by and another anniversary celebrated. A big thank you to my wife.
I missed a lot of Hurricanes' news but I do have some commentary to post as soon as I have the chance. Many thanks to Cory for keeping up with things and to HM and the rest who posted notable comments while I was away!
Happy Veteran's Day to all the vets out there!