Carolina is 0-2 to start its five-game road trip, and things don't get any easier Tuesday when they head to the Shark Tank to face perennial Western Conference powerhouse San Jose. It will also be the first time the Hurricanes are facing longtime defenseman Niclas Wallin, who played eight and a half seasons in Carolina before being traded to San Jose in February.
The Sharks are off to a slow start, going 1-1-1 in their first three games and managing just seven goals after starting their season, like Carolina, overseas with two games in Sweden against Columbus. San Jose's roster is full of familiar Sharks — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski lead the way — but the biggest change is in goal, where Evgeni Nabokov is gone and Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi and fellow Finn Antero Niittymaki man the net.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are full of new faces in 2010-11 and still trying to find combinations that work on the forward lines and defense. Coach Paul Maurice has tried several different players with first-line duo Eric Staal and Erik Cole, while promising rookie Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen — who both have been tried alongside Staal — have played wing and center through four games.
The one constant has been in net, where Cam Ward has performed well despite being left without much help from a defense that has, at times, looked confused and disorganized in its own end. Maurice tried to alleviate those problems Sunday against Vancouver by reuniting Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason, who have proven to work well together in the past. But after one game the problems appear to go deeper than chemistry, with Corvo citing Carolina's early season schedule that sent them to Europe and then to the West Coast for five games as "ridiculous."
The puck drops at 10:30 p.m. in HD on FSC, and can also be heard on 99.9 The Fan. We'll update with expected lineups as the information is available.
- San Jose's power play is currently fourth in the NHL at 27.8 percent, while Carolina's penalty kill is tied for 27th at 68.4 percent. Staying out of the penalty box — or improving on the kill — will be essential.
- Both Carolina and San Jose are in the bottom third of the league in scoring to start the season. The Canes are tied for third fewest goals per game in the league with two a night, while the Sharks, at 2.33, rank 21st. Both are allowing three goals a game, tied with three other teams for 19th in the NHL.
- Carolina's faceoff woes could continue against the Sharks. The Hurricanes are last in the league at 37.7 percent, while San Jose is ninth at 52.9 percent.
- Boyle is second in the NHL in ice time with 27:32 logged a night, while Carolina's Joni Pitkanen — who led the league last year — is third at 27:28. Chicago's Duncan Keith leads the league at 30:08.
- Marleau is leading all NHL forwards in ice time at 22:29 a night. Staal leads the Canes’ forwards (21:16, 14th among forwards) and is tied for the most shifts per game (28.3) with the Islanders’ Matt Moulson and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.
- Thornton — who just signed a three-year, $21 million extension — has scored both his goals this season on the power play.
- The Sharks have just three points from their defense so far this season, all assists. Carolina, on the other hand, has seven points in four games — including a goal by Anton Babchuk.
Players To Watch
- Carolina: Corvo has five goals in 19 career games against the Sharks, including three on the power play — the only other Hurricanes with a power play goal against the Sharks in their career are Jokinen, Cole and Tuomo Ruutu, who all have one; Two of Patrick O`Sullivan’s five career shorthanded goals have come against San Jose; Pitkanen has no points in nine career games against the Sharks.
- San Jose: Marc-Edouard Vlasic has two goals in three games against the Canes (14.2 percent of his 14 career goals in 312 games). has scorched Carolina in his career, registering 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 28 career games, including 11 power play goals; Niittymaki has a spectacular 8-2-2 record against Carolina despite having average numbers (3.00 goals-against, .901 save percentage) in those games; the Sharks D has had some success against the Hurricanes: one of Douglas Murray's five career goals came against the Canes (he's faced the Canes in just five of 292 career games), while
Fear the Fin will have more info on the Sharks. We will have our open game thread up and running early tonight, starting at 9:30.