It's been confirmed, Michael Leighton will face Cam Ward tonight.
There is one other little interesting matchup, Peter Laviolette versus Paul Maurice.
The Philadelphia Flyers, (16-18-2) are in Raleigh to tangle with the Carolina Hurricanes, (9-22-6) tonight for a game which will have a bit more drama than usual. While players and coaches are saying all the right things, it's only human to think that this game will mean a bit more than your typical one of 82.
Peter Laviolette replaced Paul Maurice back in December of 2003. Then Maurice returned the favor just over a year ago, in December of 2008. Both coaches downplayed the "coincidence". Laviolette said that getting the win tonight because his team needs the win, was more important than any form of personal retribution.
"Obviously, I have many great memories of Raleigh, but over the past year I have turned the page and it's time to move on. I'm a part of a tremendous organization now that wants to win and that is my focus.'
Maurice said much the same when asked about Leighton and Laviolette being in the building, although he admitted that there would be more "energy".
"There will be more energy, and that's a good thing. Better these games than wondering whether or not your team is going to show up. After two home losses, I expect this team to show up with some fire and intensity, and with Peter back and Mike Leighton, that should add to it."
The Canes certainly do need to show up for this game with more intensity than they have been. They lost their last two home games by an 8-2 margin and they were blown out, 5-1 by a mediocre Montreal team on Wednesday night.
Philadephia won in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, led by Leighton who had 31 saves on 33 shots. Cam Ward was chased inside of 10 minutes when he allowed three goals on just seven shots.
Leighton was put on waivers earlier this month by the Hurricanes and he was picked up by the Flyers on re-entry. The ex-Hurricanes goalie was quoted as saying that he was looking forward to tonight.
While the extra drama is relevant because of the return of the Cup winning coach and ex- backup goalie, there is another important update regarding the game tonight. Eric Staal has been demoted to third line winger and Brandon Sutter will take his spot on the first line. Staal will play on Jussi Jokinen's wing with Patrick Dwyer.
I specifically asked the coach if the move had anything to do with an injury to Staal.
"No, he's as healthy as he has been all year," Maurice replied. When questioned about his trust in Sutter, the coach didn't hold back any punches.
"I'm not putting Sutter in this position so that he will be better in three years, I'm moving him because he gives the team the best opportunity to win right now."
I also spoke briefly with Matt Cullen and asked him what he thought it would be like skating against his old coach. "It will be interesting for sure," the center said. When asked if there was a difference in coaching systems and what those differences might be he was pretty reserved in his answer.
"There really isn't too much difference in anyone's system. At the end of the day after you review video, most people are doing pretty much of the same things. It just comes down to who is skating better. The better skating team will win."
These two teams are among the worst in the league, so they should have plenty of motivation to skate.
Will Michael Leighton play the game of his life tonight? Will Cam Ward returns to his former, reliable self?
|2009 - Cam Ward||22||1183||4||13||63||3.20||596||533||.894||0|
|2009 - Michael Leighton||9||448||2||4||29||3.88||214||185||.864||0|
Will Brandon Sutter continue to shine? Will Eric Staal find his touch?
|2009 - Brandon Sutter||28||8||6||14||-6||2||2||0||0||0||64||12.5|
|2009 - Eric Staal||27||6||13||19||-10||42||3||0||0||0||117||5.1|
The forward lines were as follows during the morning skate:
- Sutter, Whitney, Ruutu
- Cullen, Samsonov, Kostopoulos
- Jokinen, Staal, Dwyer
- Yelle, Walker, Brind'Amour
The defense will remain the same as it was on Wednesday night. (Pitkanen, Gleason, Alberts, Wallin, Ward, and Carson.)
For information about the Flyers, check out Broad Street Hockey.
The game will be televised by FS Carolinas. Mike Maniscalco will have the Stormfront and the Aftermath before and after the game. We will have the open game thread as usual and I will be reporting from the RBC during the game.