The surging Carolina Hurricanes, (27-31-7) will have a good opportunity to see exactly how far they have come this season as they take on the Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals, (44-13-9) tonight at the Verizon Center.
The Canes have been one of the hottest teams in the league during the last month or so and have won eight of their last nine games, as well as 13 of their last 17. The Caps have been one of the best teams in the NHL all season long and are almost unbeatable at home, although Carolina did win the last time the club visited the Nation's Capital.
The game also marks the first time the teams have met since last week's trade deadline deals were completed which had each respective franchise swap a couple of players each.
Scott Walker and Joe Corvo will face their old buds while Brian Pothier and Oskar Osala will go against the franchise which, more or less, gave them up for a short term improvement. Depending upon the circumstances regarding each player's departure, the athletes could use a matchup like this one as extra motivation.
For instance, feeling somewhat slighted by one particular ex-franchise, Corvo always used to love to face the Ottawa Senators and lit them up for a hat trick his first game against them. Although according to reports, the defenseman has yet to play up to his potential with his new team.
Walker, on the otherhand, scored two goals in his fIrst game with the Caps and seems to have fit right in.
Pothier has been a steady presence so far and seems to like the "simple" system in Carolina. On more than one occasion he has commented about how the forwards "back-pressure" here. Perhaps he is not used to that phenomenon?
The Hurricanes needed to recall newly acquired forward, Oskar Osala from Albany today. Erik Cole has flu-like symptoms and will not play in tonight's contest.
Osala should fit in very nicely with the team's other Finnish players, Joni Pitkanen, Jussi Jokinen, and Tuomo Ruutu. This will be the third NHL appearance for the youngster, although it will be his first this season. He has yet to tally an NHL point.
Look for the lines to be as follows:
- Staal, Whitney, Jokinen
- Sutter, Ruutu, LaRose
- Dwyer, Boychuk, Kostopoulos
- Brind'Amour, Osala, Samsonov
- Gleason, Pothier
- Pitkanen, Carson
- Picard, Harrison
Manny Legace will face Jose Theodore between the pipes.
|2009 - Manny Legace||19||1019||9||5||45||2.65||496||451||.909||1|
|2009 - Jose Theodore||37||2020||22||7||94||2.79||1047||953||.910||1|
Legace has won his last five starts and is coming off a 4-0 shutout of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Brandon Sutter is riding a six game point streak. (4G 4A). Leading scorer Jussi Jokinen has points in 18 of Carolina's last 22 games. (15G 13A).
The Capitals lost their last game in a shootout to the Dallas Stars on Monday. If you want more Washington information, check out JP's blog over at Japers' Rink.
The teams have met three times so far this season with the Caps winning two of them, 3-2 (in Raleigh), and 4-3 (in OT in Washington). The Canes won the last matchup in Washington by a 6-3 score on 12/23.
The game will be televised locally by FS Carolinas starting at 7 p.m. We will have the open thread ready for action at 6:30.