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Battle on the Bubble: Canes at Sens Game Day Preview

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After finding a way to win it in the third period and snap the three-game losing streak in Toronto last night, the Carolina Hurricanes flew directly to Ottawa for the second half of this back-to-back, the tenth of 21 on their schedule for the season. Last night's game was indeed a wild one as the Hurricanes were called for numerous minor penalties (including two each to Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain), but were helped by goals from Jeff Skinner, his first in ten games, Eric Staal with two, and Patrick Dwyer who deflected in the game winner off a Tim Gleason shot from the blue line, Dwyer's first point in16 outings. The appearance of GM Jim Rutherford in the locker room between the second and third periods was a motivating factor according to Captain Eric Staal in comments after the game.

This morning the Hurricanes recalled center Jon Matsumoto and defenseman Bryan Rodney from the Charlotte Checkers, both on an emergency basis. Jussi Jokinen is out with a lower body injury, and Joni Pitkanen is out with an unspecified UBI. With Matsumoto likely to play fourth line center, we'll have to wait and see how Paul Maurice assembles his forward lines tonight. Zach Boychuk in particular is looking to get some better minutes as Jiri Tlusty's injury is healing quickly.

UPDATEAudio from Ottawa (2 minutes) Chuck Kaiton with Paul Maurice after the skate, discussing injuries, Boychuk and Ward.

Carolina and the Ottawa Senators both have earned 36 points in the standings, but with two games in hand, the Hurricanes are in ninth place in the East, ahead of the Sens at tenth. The Canes are 6-4-1 in December, while Ottawa is at 5-4-3, but has a two-game win streak to build on. With two points in the standings on the line for these teams who are struggling to find their identity (and some consistency) and who want to get back in the playoff mix, we should expect this to be a battle tonight. 

A closer look at the Sens and individual player matchups after the jump.

The Senators have been idle since defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night, a solid 3-1 victory in front of a sold out Scotia Bank Center. Net minder Brian Elliot was named first star of the game, but young Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson, the Sens first round pick in 2008 (15th overall) contributed two goals and was named the second star. 

The win had a cost though as a hard hit by Kris Letang on Ottawa's top center Jason Spezza caused the All-Star to suffer a significant shoulder injury, and the team expects him to be sidelined 4-6 weeks, with surgery also a possibility. The Sens called up Zack Smith, 22, from Binghamton Monday. Another young center, Peter Regin, 24, will be given the opportunity to center the Sens' second line between Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev. The Senators GM, Bryan Murray, was outspoken in his displeasure that Letang was only assessed a 2-minute minor on what he called a "dirty hit". 

Spezza will especially be missed in the faceoff circle where he led his team for both winning % and draws taken. Without Spezza, the remaining team wins faceoffs slightly less than half the time, or 49.4%. 

For a thorough snapshot evaluation of the team's full roster, be sure to check out this from our SBN affiliate blog Silver SevenSenators Ups and Downs: Holiday Break Edition

Cam Ward will continue as the starter in goal for the Canes, his fourth straight. The Sens goalie Pascal Leclaire is still recovering from injury so Brian Elliot, who got the win and first star honors for efforts in the defeat of the Penguins Sunday, continues to carry the load. AHL Binghamton's Mike Brodeur will be the back-up. Elliot has allowed only 5 goals in his last 3 appearances.

Cam Ward

#30 / Goalie / Carolina Hurricanes



Feb 29, 1984

2010 - Cam Ward 30 1710 15 11 74 2.60 980 906 .924 1

Brian Elliott

#30 / Goalie / Ottawa Senators



Apr 09, 1985

2010 - Brian Elliott 26 1428 12 10 69 2.90 753 684 .908 3

This is Hurricanes' the third meeting with the Senators; both teams have won at home so far in the series, one a piece. The last meeting in Raleigh was a lopsided 7-1  for the Canes on November 17th, as the Sens were still reeling from the tragic death of their assistant coach's teenage daughter. The teams' first meeting in Ottawa was won by the Sens 3-2 back on October 14th, as the Hurricanes embarked on their five-game North American road trip following the pair of wins in Helsinki, Finland, which opened the season. 

Comparing special teams, the Senators are 10th in the league for their Power Play, scoring 20% of the time. Shorthanded, they successfully kill penalties at a rate of 80.4%, good for 20th. The Hurricanes are just 24th on the PP (15.9%) and still at 27th on the PK (77.7%). 

The game starts at 7:30 and will be shown on Fox Sports Carolinas as well as broadcast on 99.9theFan. Our open game thread will be open for business at 7pm.