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Leighton's Last Stand: Wild at Canes Game Preview

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Carolina Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice announced on Saturday that backup goalie Michael Leighton would be starting Sunday's game against the Minnesota Wild.  Leighton, who has only started two games out of the club's last 65, (including last year's playoffs), has been itching to get a chance.

When Cam Ward fell to injury against the Blue Jackets, many assumed that Leighton would get the call to fill the void.  He had been a positive team guy up to that point, he worked hard everyday in practice, and supposedly paid his dues.  He deserved a shot, right?

But management signed cast off Manny Legace, who had year-to-date worse stats in the AHL, (2-2-1-1 GAA 3.21 SV% 898),  than River Rats goalie, Justin Peters, (6-4-2 GAA 2.14 SV% .924).  The signing made sense for insurance, but it was surprising that the brand new goalie got the call to start the last two games over Leighton, who had been waiting in the wings, loyally, for so long.

To say that the coaching staff does not have much confidence in the backup would seem to be an understatement. 

So obviously it goes without saying, this game is huge for Michael Leighton.  Not only is he now fighting for playing time, he's fighting for a spot on this team.  When Cam Ward gets healthy enough to return to action, the club will need to send someone to the minors.  

Will it be Leighton or Legace?  They each can determine their own destiny.  Legace had his chance and now it's Leighton's turn.  Will he be able to take advantage?

The Hurricanes will be looking for a better start on Sunday afternoon than they have had recently.  Both first periods in the previous two home games were flat, as they took multiple penalties, gave up multiple goals, and could not get anything going on offense.  (Total of five shots on goal in 40 minutes of play).

It seems like everyone in the NHL is aware of their 14 game losing or winless streak, whatever you prefer to call it.  Somehow, someway, the team needs to rally together and figure out a way to win a game. 

It will not be easy considering their injuries.  Eric Staal and Cam Ward remain out.  Stephane Yelle is still questionable.  Chad LaRose missed practice Saturday, but he is not expected to miss the game.  

I would look for Maurice to stay with seven defensemen again this game because a couple of the blueliners are nursing injuries.  Aaron Ward is not at 100% and Tim Gleason has been limping around. 

The coach should stick with the same lines.  They were showing some decent chemistry in the second and third periods on Friday night.

  • Sutter, Whitney, Cole
  • Cullen, Jokinen, Ruutu
  • Brind'Amour, Samsonov, LaRose
  • Walker, Kostopoulos

The defense will be mixed and matched but the team will probably try to stay with the Corvo/Gleason and Pitkanen/Wallin pairings much of the time.

The Wild come to town with a two game losing streak and an overall record of 7-11-1.  This will be the final game of a three game Southeast road trip for them.  They dropped games to the Lightning and Capitals earlier in the week.

They are led in scoring by their new captain, Mikko Koivu.  Vezina candidate Nicklas Backstrom is always tough in goal.  Eric Belanger always likes to do well against his former team.

The game starts at 1:30 and will not be on local television. Watch on Center Ice or listen to Chuck on 99.9 The Fan.  We will be starting the Open Game Thread here at 1ish and I will be reporting from the game. 

You can check out more Wild information at Hockey Wilderness.com.