The Carolina Hurricanes will see a familiar face tonight when Joe Corvo returns to the RBC Center with the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins for the teams' first meeting of the 2011-12 season. Boston and Carolina essentially swapped defensemen when the Hurricanes signed unrestricted free agent Tomas Kaberle — who was a trade deadline acquisition for the Bruins — and then, to make room for him, granted Corvo's wish to be moved to another team and dealt him to the Bruins for a 2012 fourth-round pick.
So while Corvo, Kaberle and the Carolina fans will likely have mixed feelings tonight, the more pressing matter for all parties is how the two teams have played to start the year. The Bruins are coming off a shutout loss to Colorado and sit at 1-2-0 through three games despite allowing just four goals so far this season. The Hurricanes are still looking for their first win, having managed just one point (an overtime loss to the Capitals) of a possible six points, and have allowed 13 goals in their first three games. Furthermore, the Canes face their annual State Fair road trip following this game, a four-game roadie that includes a trip to rival Buffalo, a return date in Boston, a game at St. Louis, and the first regular season game in Winnipeg.
It's hard to call any game this early in the season a must-win, but the Hurricanes could very well be in desperation mode if they enter their road trip still searching for their first win.
The Bruins were 3-1 vs. the Hurricanes last season, with captain Zdeno Chara leading the way with three goals and three assists in last year's series, and return most of the lineup that won them a title last year. But the Bruins will be without top-line center David Krejci, who was injured in practice Tuesday (B's coach Claude Julien, when asked if it was a lower-body/leg injury, responded with, "It's a body") and did not make the trip to Raleigh. Sliding in to Krejci's spot centering Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton will be second-year pivot and former Plymouth Whaler Tyler Seguin.
Seguin and 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall (Edmonton) were the odds-on favorites for rookie of the year last season, but instead it was Canes forward Jeff Skinner who took the NHL by storm, becoming the first Calder Trophy winner in franchise history. Through three games, Skinner hasn't shown any signs of the dreaded sophomore slump. He leads all Hurricanes with five points (one goal, four assists). Linemate and captain Eric Staal is the only Carolina player with multiple goals, having scored both of his on the power play in the Canes' OT loss at Washington Saturday. Coach Paul Maurice said yesterday he will keep Staal and Skinner together for tonight's game and didn't expect to make any line changes up front, but there was some shuffling of the other three lines at the morning skate:
Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Zac Dalpe
On defense, Maurice hinted that he could make an adjustment and, according to the Canes' Michael Smith, it looks like rookie Justin Faulk will be scratched and Jamie McBain will be paired with Joni Pitkanen, while Derek Joslin and Ryan Murphy will again be in the press box:
Bryan Allen - Tim Gleason
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain
Tomas Kaberle - Jay Harrison
Expect Tim Thomas and Cam Ward to duel in net in a match up of former Conn Smythe Trophy winners.
Broadcast Information: This is Carolina's first nationally televised game of the season and will be broadcast on Versus with Mike 'Doc' Emrick and Eddie Olczyk calling the game. The broadcast will begin at 7 p.m. with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m. As always, Chuck Kaiton will cal the game on 99.9 The Fan.
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