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Last Chance For a Showcase: Hurricanes at Maple Leafs, Game Day Preview

Have an aging star that has been injured most of the season, but would like to trade him for an asset before the trade deadline?  Put him on a line with Gold Medal Champion Eric Staal and see what happens. 

That might be the strategy for the Carolina Hurricanes, (24-30-7) as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, (19-31-11) tonight at the ACC. Chip Alexander "Tweeted" that Scott Walker was skating on the same line as Staal and Chad LaRose at today's morning skate.

Although Paul Maurice said after the practice not to read too much into the lines.  "We need to wait until the game to see who will be in the lineup", the coach said.  Sounds like anything could happen before game time.

Before the Olympic break, the Canes had won five games in a row and seven of their last nine and the number one line of Ray Whitney, Jussi Jokinen, and Staal was extremely successful.  Jokinen has a career best nine game scoring streak going and Whitney has points in five straight. 

So is it time to mess with the mojo? 

The team has to shake up the lines somewhat though as several injured players should make their return to the ice tonight.  Scott Walker will be joined by LaRose and Erik Cole as Carolina's walking wounded finally return to action.  Cole has missed 31 consecutive games because of a mysterious "upper body injury", the details of which have been one of the best kept secrets in the NHL.

Cam Ward is now the only Hurricane who remains injured.

The lines at the morning skate were as follows:

Staal, Walker, LaRose

Sutter, Ruutu, Kostopoulos

Jokinen, Samsonov, Cole

Brind'Amour, Whitney, Dwyer

Could this be a message to Ray Whitney?  "If you choose not to rescind your "no trade clause", these will be your linemates the rest of the season?"

Or perhaps the Canes have decided to make a valid push for one of the top draft picks this summer?

There is no telling where Stephane Yelle is in the picture since Chip did not mention him.  In that scenario, he will be scratched.

The team has seven defensemen on the trip as well and if Aaron Ward or one of the other blueliners is not traded before the puck drops, one of them will need to sit out.  (Unless they go with seven defensemen, but with 13 healthy forwards, that is doubtful).  

Alexandre Picard might make his Carolina debut tonight. 

One thing we do know for sure, Justin Peters will be in net.  The team is probably going with the youngster because he has been actively playing during the Olympics while in Albany.  Peters has been nothing short of sensational so far for the Canes.

2009 - Justin Peters 2 119 2 0 3 1.51 60 57 .950 0

He will be matched up against Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

2009 - Jean-Sebastien Giguere 24 1347 6 10 65 2.90 699 634 .907 3

The Maple Leafs have a couple of players they are trying to move as well.  Lee Stempniak and Alexei Ponikarovsky are reportedly available.  Also, this will be the first time Caniacs get to see Dion Phaneuf wearing a Leafs sweater, while playing against Carolina. 

Expect the unexpected as anything could happen this afternoon.  One player or more could be traded before the puck drops.  Or perhaps everyone will wait until tomorrow to consummate their transactions. 

((UPDATE:  Andy Sutton was just traded by the Islanders to Ottawa.  Apparently, the rumors sending Aaron Ward up there were grossly exaggerated).

We will be watching here at Canes Country. 

This game will be televised locally by FS Carolinas starting at 7 p.m.  We will have the open thread ready to go at 6:30. 

Note:  Canes Country will have an open thread running from 10 a.m. until the close of business tomorrow.  We will not only be discussing Carolina's trades, but others around the league as well.  I will be taking some vacation time and will post updates as quickly as I can.  It should be an interesting time.