Sutter, Weight Meet For First Time Since Hit
With back-to-back 5-1 wins and its injured players still not ready to return, the Carolina Hurricanes will look for the same lineup to lead the way in pursuit of the team's second three-game winning streak of the month and season tonight against the visiting New York Islanders.
Staring across the ice at them will be a familiar foe, but one that hasn't played in Raleigh for more than three years: goaltender Rick DiPietro.
DiPietro's injury struggles are well documented, but since finally returning to the Isles cage he is 2-2 in five games with a decent 2.54 goals-against average and .907 save percentage for the in-the-playoff-hunt Islanders. But the RBC Center has not been a friendly — or frequent — stop for the one-time first overall draft pick.
The Canes did face DiPietro early last season on Long Island, when he received a no decision after being yanked for allowing two goals in the first period of a 4-3 loss Oct. 25, 2008. It was one of only five games the netminder played in 2008-09. Tonight, DiPietro will start at the RBC Center for the first time since Jan. 6, 2007, a 4-2 loss that piggybacked a 5-1 loss 15 days earlier in Raleigh. You have to go all the way back to before the lockout to see DiPietro's name in the win column in Carolina, when a 6-4 win on April 2, 2004 clinched a playoff berth for New York.
|2009 - Rick DiPietro||5||283||2||2||12||2.54||129||117||.907||1|
In the Canes net, Cam Ward will get his 18th start in 19 games — plus he relieved Manny Legace less than 7 minutes into the other, a Jan. 23 loss to Philadelphia — coming off a stellar 37-save performance vs. the Rangers at MSG last night. He'll face the Islanders' young roster, which is led by another first overall selection in rookie John Tavares (two goals in two games against the Hurricanes) and Canes killer Jon Sim, who has 10 goals in 21 career games against Carolina.
|2009 - Cam Ward||37||2080||12||19||96||2.77||1087||991||.912||0|
Also coming in to town is Isles captain Doug Weight, who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 as a deadline rental but made a few enemies among the RBC faithful with this hard hit on Brandon Sutter last season:
With Sutter's shuffle from Raleigh to Albany over and Weight recovered from an early season upper body injury, it will be the first time the two have played against each other since the Oct. 25, 2008, hit.
As for the Canes, the team has found chemistry among its forwards, led by the first line of Ray Whitney and Jussi Jokinen centered by new captain Eric Staal. With two points tonight, Staal would reach 400 for his career, a feat only previous captain Rod Brind'Amour has accomplished as a Hurricane (467 points).
And there's reason to believe he could do just that. Staal has goals (eight seven of them, to be exact) in all four games since being named captain Jan. 20, coincidentally when the new top line was formed. Whitney (one goal, five assists) and Jokinen (two goals, five assists) have thrived as well in the new combination.
With the lineup the same, expect the same lines from coach Paul Maurice:
For more insight into the Islanders, check out our friends at Lighthouse Hockey. The puck drops at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast by FSC and 99.9 The Fan. No local television tonight.