I might be at my grouchiest when I'm awoken from a sound sleep in the middle of the night by my 20-month-old son, which was the case last night. I stumbled into his room, got him settled and made my way back to bed, thinking how this would leave me exhausted in the morning. When I got back to my room, I realized it was just 11 p.m.
First off: yes, I went to bed at around 10 o'clock. Cut me some slack. Second, I found myself elated that there was still a good seven hours of sleep in my future before the alarm went off.
And that's probably how the Hurricanes felt the past two days. Yes, they're miserable that they failed to seize hold of the series, losing at home in Game 3 on a Travis Zajac overtime goal. But it's not all that late, and a win tonight at the RBC Center would tie up a matchup that many predicted would go the distance.
But before they can think of the road ahead, they'll need to take care of business tonight. A loss would leave them in a 3-1 hole heading back to Newark for a must-win Game 5. Win tonight and the pressure shifts to the Devils, who will be the ones looking to hold serve on home ice.
It's hard to pinpoint the reason New Jersey leads the series 2-1. The Canes were dominated in Game 1, but the next two went to overtime with each team winning one. You can certainly point to the top lines, where the Zach Parise-led No. 1 line has been dominant, while Eric Staal, Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu have been held to just one goal. Carolina's defense has also been held in check, managing just a goal (Tim Gleason's Game 2 overtime winner) and two assists through three games. Cam Ward has matched Martin Brodeur in net, giving Carolina a chance to win.
But with just five goals in three games and a 1-for-10 conversion rate on the power play, the Hurricanes inability to generate goals has been the big difference. Thankfully the Carolina penalty kill has also been up to the task, holding the Devils to a paltry 1-for-14 with the extra man in the series. In order to win in Game 4 (and beyond), the Canes will need to find a way through New Jersey's stingy defense and past Brodeur, be it at even strength or via special teams.
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice has hinted that he might reinsert defenseman Dennis Seidenberg into the lineup tonight. He would likely replace Frank Kaberle, who jumped into the lineup in Games 2 and 3 and is the team's only blueliner with a positive plus/minus rating (plus-1). But with the Devils outshooting Carolina in all three games, Seidenberg's shot-blocking acumen could be the difference in a close game. If Kaberle is a healthy scratch tonight Seidenberg or Matt Cullen could take his spot on the point of the second power play unit.
For New Jersey, captain Jamie Langenbrunner will miss his second straight game. Devils coach Brent Sutter indicated he expects the same lineup as Game 3, meaning Game 1 and 2 scratch Bobby Holik will again play in place of Langenbrunner, though down on the fourth line.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on FSCR and 99.9 The Fan.
Game 4 Previews And News
Canes Country: Yogi Berra shoulda been a hockey player
In Lou We Trust: About that power play...
News & Observer: Hoping to bounce back • LaRose, Clarkson share path • Talking Points: What needs fixing • TV glitch makes some fans miss winning goal
The Star-Ledger: Devils seeing stars emerge in Parise, Zajac • Sutter: We're not satisfied
CarolinaHurricanes.com: Devils' top line giving Canes fits • Power play a focus for Game 4 • Series living up to its billing
WRALSportsFan.com: Hurricanes page with audio and video
NHL.com: Canes need PP improvement pronto • Devils take nothing for granted
Associated Press: Devils-Hurricanes preview
Burlington Times News: Hurricanes aim to take turn holding a lead