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Hurricanes Hit The Ice Palace: Carolina Versus SKA St. Petersburg, Game Preview

The Carolina Hurricanes will complete their exhibition season with a highly anticipated match against SKA St. Petersburg on Monday, starting at 11 11:30 a.m. Eastern.   The game will be streamed live and can be found at the following link:

NHL Live Video

This contest is very interesting to many because St. Petersburg has not played against NHL competition since 1990, when the city was still called Leningrad.  The Montreal Canadiens toured the city and then took on the home team, but were rude guests as they defeated SKA, 5-3.

The Hurricanes franchise has never played in Russia before, but when they were known as the Hartford Whalers, they did play against a couple of Russian teams for exhibition matches in the states.  The last game was a 0-0 tie against Dynamo Moscow, back in 1991. 

Most players are downplaying any major significance to the game, but the media will have none of that and are dubbing this as a mini Super Bowl of sorts, the KHL versus the NHL.  And there has been a ton of media covering the team since their arrival.  Hockeymom has several links to articles in her clicks and clippings yesterday, but here is another one with some pictures and a story line I haven't seen posted yet, Hurricanes in St. Pete.

Paul Maurice told the local media before the Canes left that he expected it to be a "big game" for the KHL team. 

"Based on some of the questions I've gotten from reporters over there, this is still Russia versus North America in their minds."  Maurice continued.  "There's a lot going on in this game and I think that's good.  There's no way to manufacture a regular season game in the preseason. This is a contact sport and we hope to stay healthy, but we need to get into a game where the intensity level has changed, then we can get a real good assessment of our younger players."

Anton Babchuk played in the KHL last season and one might think that he would have some special perspective about this contest.  Before the Hurricanes left Raleigh, I had the chance to ask him what this experience would be like for him and if he thought the match would have any more significance for the KHL players, who might have something to prove. 

"It depends upon each person I think," Babchuk said.  "Some might look at it as an exhibition game, some might look at it as a big game.  Each player is probably different.  To me, it's just another game."  

I went on to ask the defenseman if the fans might take it more seriously?

"No, it's the same I think.  It depends on the fan.  Some might look at this as a friendship game for fun, others might take it more serious and get more excited."

Other players seem to be taking Babchuk's stance, that it's just another game.  Are they just saying the polite thing, but will say something different on the ice?

Speaking of ice, the teams will be playing at the Ice Palace, the home arena for SKA.  The surface is international size, which is wider than an NHL rink.  Will the Canes be able to adapt to the difference?

According to Paul Branecky, who made the trip with the team, Coach Paul Maurice has re-tweaked the lines.  See Branecky's article here.  The scheduled lines to start off with are as follows:

  • Staal, LaRose, Cole
  • Sutter, Bowman, Dwyer
  • Jokinen, Skinner, Ruutu
  • Dalpe, O'Sullivan, Kostopoulos
  • Gleason, McBain
  • Corvo, Pitkanen
  • Harrison, Babchuk

Cam Ward will start in goal and will stay in until he is ready to come out.  It is expected that he will play about half of the game.  Justin Peters will be the backup.  If they stick with this lineup, Tlusty, Sanguinetti, Pogge,and Carson would be scratched. 

St. Pete's lineup is no slouch.  They have several former NHL players including:Alexei Yashin, Sergei Zubov, Evgeni Nabokov, and Denis Grebeshkov.

According to Bruce Peter, SBN's international hockey expert over at the newly acquired Puck Worlds, SKA has been struggling.  "Yashin was benched once and Nabokov has been criticized," Peter told me.  St. Petersburg is one of the richest franchises in the KHL.  They also have one of the highest paid rosters and expectations are high. 

There will be no radio broadcast of the game, just the live stream listed above.  We will have our open game thread starting up at game time at 11.