The Carolina Hurricanes, (4-12-5), are starting to feel better about themselves as they enter into a contest at the RBC tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, (8-4-7). After a disastrous last place start, the team now has earned points in four straight games and has won two of their last three.
Still, the club has only one regulation win in their first 21 games this season and has yet to win a game on the road, but the play on the ice is better than it was and the Canes are riding high off the emotional comeback win over the Maple Leafs on Thursday night. Can they continue to build on that win?
Carolina sent defenseman Bryan Rodney back to Albany yesterday with expectations that Joni Pitkanen would be ready to play tonight. Indeed, number 25 was on the ice at the morning skate, so he will return to the lineup against the Lightning.
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice has done a lot of shuffling of his lines recently and moved team captain Rod Brind'Amour to the fourth line against the Leafs. The Charlotte Observer has information about the captain's struggles in this article. Brind'Amour seems to have accepted his demotion with class, as one would expect.
But no complaints Friday from the captain.
"It's all about winning," Brind'Amour said. "Obviously you want to contribute, and I haven't been doing that. It's a little bit frustrating, but you just try to stay positive.
"It's always frustrating when you don't play. Ask anybody who has been in that situation. But that's the way it goes."
Maurice also mentioned that the long time center would probably be moved to wing when Eric Staal gets back into the lineup. They tried that earlier this year with minimal success.
At the pregame skate, Yelle worked out on both the third line and the fourth line, so don't be surprised if there is continued shuffling tonight.
The Hurricanes are led by Ray Whitney and Tuomo Ruutu. Both have been scoring well recently although Brandon Sutter has the longest point streak going on the team and has points in the last four games.
|2009 - Ray Whitney||19||6||8||14||-3||6||1||0||0||0||38||15.8|
|2009 - Tuomo Ruutu||18||5||9||14||1||23||1||0||0||0||50||10.0|
|2009 - Brandon Sutter||12||5||4||9||-1||0||1||0||0||0||35||14.3|
The Tampa Bay Lightning have surprised a few people so far this year and are right in the thick of things in the East. Currently, they find themselves in second place in the division with 23 points.
The Bolts are led by Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier.
|2009 - Steven Stamkos||19||14||8||22||6||10||6||1||1||0||59||23.7|
|2009 - Ryan Malone||19||13||8||21||8||12||4||0||4||0||55||23.6|
|2009 - Martin St. Louis||19||4||16||20||1||2||2||0||0||0||65||6.2|
|2009 - Vincent Lecavalier||19||4||14||18||-1||8||0||0||0||0||67||6.0|
Manny Legace will get the nod in net for the Canes. I'm not sure who will start for the Lightning, either Smith or Nittymaki. (I'll leave an update when I find out).
|2009 - Manny Legace||4||226||1||1||14||3.72||111||97||.874||0|
|2009 - Antero Niittymaki||10||591||5||1||19||1.93||314||295||.939||0|
|2009 - Mike Smith||10||583||3||3||33||3.40||290||257||.886||0|
The Hurricanes had some other good news at the morning skate, as Eric Staal joined in with the team. He will not play tonight, but is very close to returning to action.
Joe Corvo is second in the NHL in average ice time per game at 26:47 per contest.
While the team has not won a game on the road, they are 4-5-2 at the RBC.
Carolina has played to overtime four consecutive games and to shootouts in their last three.
The Canes are 14 for 95 on the powerplay, good for 14.7% and 25th in the league. They are 78 for 98 on the penalty kill, good for 79.6% and 18th in the league.
The team's faceoff percentage is 49% which is 19th in the league.
They have improved their goals per game average to 2.24 which is 29th in the league. They allow 3.67 goals per game which is also 29th in the league.
Carolina's 5 on 5 goalsfor/against ratio is 30th in the league at .65.
The Canes have now lost 64 "man games" due to injuries, but don't feel too sorry for them because that is not even close to being the worst in the NHL. James Mirtle recently performed a study and rated the Hurricanes at about 10th in the league. Both Vancouver and Edmonton have over 100 man games lost, year to date, and Colorado is not far behind.
The game will be televised locally by FS Carolinas and can be caught at 99.9 The Fan. I will be reporting from the game and will have an Open Thread starting about 6:30 while the puck drops at 7.
Check out the latest about the Lightning at Raw Charge.