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Joni Pitkanen To Answer Critics: Hurricanes at Oilers, Game Day Preview

The Carolina Hurricanes, (19-28-7) are in Alberta to tangle with the Edmonton Oilers, (16-31-6)  tonight in a battle between teams going in opposite directions.  The Oilers have lost 13 games in a row and could tie a franchise record with another loss tonight.  The Canes have been playing very well of late and have won four in a row as well as five of their last six.

It's hard to believe these two teams, both at the bottom of the NHL at times this year, were fighting each other in the Stanley Cup Finals just four short years ago.

Both teams have been decimated by injuries this year.  Edmonton still has several of their franchise players out.  The Hurricanes have their most important players back in the lineup and healthy, but are still missing some key contributors.  Tuomo Ruutu, Erik Cole, and Scott Walker are still out as of this posting.   

There was just update from the team, Chad LaRose was injured the other night and will not play tonight.  Perhaps Corvo is ready to give it a shot, but the rest of the lineup should be the same other than LaRose.  There has not been an announcement regarding any recalls from Albany.

It's a no-brainer that Cam Ward will start again in goal.

  • Staal, Whitney, Jokinen
  • Cullen, Samsonov, Kostopoulos
  • Sutter, Tlusty, LaRose
  • Yelle, Brind'Amour, Dwyer
  • Pitkanen, Ward, (?Corvo?)
  • Gleason, Wallin
  • Alberts, Carson

(UPDATE:  John Forslund reported that the Canes will skate short a man tonight.  Mo will be mixing and matching lines as needed.)

Ward has been playing like a world class goalie of late.  In the last 17 games, he has registered a GAA of 2.12 and a save percentage of .936. 

Eric Staal has also been hot, having scored 38 points in his last 29 games since returning from injury.  Staal now has points in eight straight games. 

Matt Cullen also has a streak going and has scored in four straight. 

Joni Pitkanen should be happy to go back to where fans "used him and abused him" during his brief stay there.  Remember how this writer had the audacity to claim that a team could not win a Stanley Cup with Pitkanen on the blueline?  He also claimed that the Oilers won the trade which sent Cole to Edmonton for the Finn.   Of course, I had a rebuttal.  I wonder if he still thinks "the Oil" came out on top of that deal?

On the trade front, in case your wondering if the recent winning streak will make Jim Rutherford change his mind about a "sell off" before the trade deadline, all signs indicate the answer is "no".  According to this article in the New Times Union, Rutherford recognizes that the Canes are the oldest team in the league, and he still has every intention to do something about it. 

He is also very pleased with how the younger kids have performed. 

 "They, (Dwyer, Carson, and Tlusty) showed that they’re going to be here in the future," Rutherford said. "We have some other guys who are developing in Albany (of the American Hockey League). We like their future."

It does make sense though that he might wait a bit longer now, than he may have originally planned.  So I would not expect any major trades while the team is on the road this week.  But who knows?

The game has a late start time of 9:30 and will be televised locally by FS Carolinas.  We will start up the open game thread an hour early tonight, beginning at 8:30.  

As always, I was going to post a link to SBN's opposition blog for more information about the Oilers, and this time it is Copper and Blue.  But instead of writing about the upcoming game, I see they have just posted an article slamming the Carolina market because of "poor" attendance.  Apparently, 18th in the league and 92% capacity is not very good, in the author's viewpoint.  

Some Canadians will never understand that there are actually other things to do down here besides watch hockey.  That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad market.  But it's not the first time a wannabe hockey elitist has pretended to be an expert on the market who has never even spent a moment in time down here, and it won't be the last.