After turning a corner at home last week with three wins in their previous four games, finishing with an impressive win over Tampa Bay last week Saturday, the Canes went on the road and lost two games in a row this week.
Brandon Sutter still believes the team is on the right track though. "I still feel we played pretty well. We have just got to keep on track and keep shooting for a .500 record by Christmas."
With a 5-14-5 record, how the team performs during these next three games will indicate if .500 hockey by Christmas is even possible. I asked Sutter about the line changing during the last game, and if that presented a special challenge to him, to continually be acclimated to different linemates.
"With Staal coming back of course some changing of lines is to be expected. I think the coaching staff is still searching for the right combinations, still searching for some chemistry." In other words, look for more line shuffling tonight.
In a brief chat with Tuomo Ruutu, he said that he would be a game time decision tonight, although he was on the ice and looked good during the morning skate. I asked him if he could elaborate a bit about his injury, but he just smiled and said "It's nothing serious, just a nagging injury that needs treatment".
Coach Maurice said that Scott Walker and Patrick Dwyer would be scratches tonight, obviously planning for Ruutu to be in the lineup. When asked about the goalie situation for the next series of games, he said a decision would be made after the game tonight.
"We aren't sure how Manny will do in a back-to-back sequence yet. If he gets a lot of work tonight, which is certainly a possibility with the talent on that team, we might go with Leighton tomorrow night. It also depends upon how Leighton feels. If he tells us that he is fine and ready to go, then we might go with him tomorrow night. We will make that decision after tonight's game."
Carolina's opponent tonight, the Atlanta Thrashers, have been a bit of a surprise themselves this season. With an 11-7-3 record, they are currently a bubble playoff team and are coming off an impressive 2-0 win against Detroit on Wednesday night.
The Thrashers are led in scoring by Rich Peverly, a forward who is coming into his own the past couple of years. Of course Ilya Kovalchuk is always a threat and he is joined by Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov.
|2009 - Rich Peverley||21||8||16||24||4||16||5||0||3||0||44||18.2|
|2009 - Ilya Kovalchuk||15||13||9||22||1||27||6||0||0||0||53||24.5|
|2009 - Maxim Afinogenov||21||9||12||21||6||16||2||0||0||0||51||17.6|
|2009 - Nik Antropov||21||2||19||21||11||6||0||0||1||0||25||8.0|
The Thrashers have a hot new goalie in net by the name of Ondrej Pavelec, although Johan Hedberg has great numbers as well.
|2009 - Ondrej Pavelec||16||891||7||5||41||2.76||532||491||.923||2|
|2009 - Johan Hedberg||8||377||4||2||17||2.71||215||198||.921||0|
For those who might not remember, Manny Legace had a tryout with Atlanta but was cut before the season started. Will he use this as extra motivation tonight?
|2009 - Manny Legace||7||405||2||3||20||2.96||194||174||.897||0|
The Canes are still led by Ray Whitney, Jussi Jokinen, and Tuomo Ruutu with 15 points each.
|2009 - Ray Whitney||22||6||9||15||-4||6||1||0||0||0||44||13.6|
|2009 - Jussi Jokinen||24||6||9||15||-1||12||1||0||2||0||43||14.0|
|2009 - Tuomo Ruutu||20||6||9||15||1||23||2||0||0||0||52||11.5|
The game is not on local television tonight. If you can not make it to the RBC, watch on Center Ice, or listen on 99.9 The Fan. I will be reporting from the game in the Open Game Thrad starting at 6:30.
Bird Watcher's Anonymous, will have the lowdown on the Thrashers.