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Hurricanes at Senators: Cam Ward to start 5th game in 8 days

Brandon Sutter will be keeping tabs on the Sens #19, Jason Spezza, this evening in Ottawa . Photo from when these 2 teams played in Raleigh Oct 25, 2011, via <a href="">Jamie Kellner</a>
Brandon Sutter will be keeping tabs on the Sens #19, Jason Spezza, this evening in Ottawa . Photo from when these 2 teams played in Raleigh Oct 25, 2011, via Jamie Kellner

It's the annual "Fathers Trip" this weekend as the Carolina Hurricanes (8-12-4) are in the Canadian capital city to take on the Ottawa Senators (10-10-2) at 5pm tonight. The Canes are in the throes of a November to forget as they have struggled to sustain any sort of team momentum from game to game. Will having the dads watching from the stands be the catalyst for 60 minutes of solid effort and mental fortitude that's been sorely missing?

The Senators 2011-12 season hasn't gone much better than Carolina's; they currently sit one spot ahead of the Canes in the standings with 2 points more and 2 games in hand. Carolina remains at 14th in the East.

This will be the Sens first home game since November 9th, with six games on the road since then. They went 3-2-1 on the trip, wrapping up in Pittsburgh Friday night where Sidney Crosby put up 3 more points as part of a dominant Penguins 6-3 win.

Canes new and improved #1 blueliner Jay Harrison did not make this trip as he continues to deal with an upper body injury follow his 29 minute performance in the shootout loss to the Canadiens Wednesday. However, perhaps some good news will offset Harrison's absence as Joni Pitkanen is described as "probable". He has missed 8 games (going back to Nov 12) with a foot injury and apparently had some flu symptoms this weekend as well. We may not know until gametime whether he is in the lineup.

Cam Ward is expected to be in goal again, making 5 straight starts for him, going back to the win over Toronto a week ago. Despite taking a stray puck to the forehead while sitting on the bench Friday, #2 goalie Brian Boucher made a quick recovery and shows no after effects other than some swelling. He will be in the back-up role once more tonight.

More on the lines and stats plus a few links after the jump....

These were the lines at practice Saturday,  indicating no change from the past week since Brett Sutter was recalled from Charlotte Monday. The Canes have gone 1-1-1 as such. Whether maintaining the status quo is 1) Maurice patiently letting chemistry develop between Staal and the club's two best wingers or 2) indicates some form of "insanity" to expect different (and hopefully better) results with the identical lineup - well, that call is up to the reader. Either way, look for:

Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Brett Sutter - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart


The D-pairings are hard to guess if Pitkanen goes in. With Justin Faulk playing so well and Jay Harrison out, it will force some interesting decisions and perhaps indicate what the front office expectations are for Tomas Kaberle. For instance, if Jim Rutherford is actively seeking to trade the struggling vet, Maurice won't likely go and scratch him.

Stats to know

Skins = Wins

In November so far, there has been 100% correlation between Skinner scoring a goal and the Canes winning. Number 53 has 5 goals in the Canes 4 wins, and 0 goals in Carolina's 9 losses. Further, all of the Canes wins came when Skinner and Ruutu were together on the same line with either Jokinen or Staal as the center.

Here are the YTD stats for Carolina's current top line:

G A P +/- PIM
2011 - 12 Jeff Skinner 9 12 21 -5 16
2011 - 12 Tuomo Ruutu 7 3 10 0 26
2011 - 12 Eric Staal 4 6 10 -17 12


Power Play woes without Pitkanen

Since Pitkanen went out 8 games ago, the Canes have had only 3 power play goals in 34 opportunities for a dreadful 8.8% conversion rate. With Pitkanen in the line up, they were notably better with 10 goals for 73 opportunities or 13.7% (not exactly impressive, I know).  The 28 year old Finn contributed on 4 of those10 PP goals. Pitkanen also has a team high average TOI/game with the man advantage at 4:40. 


Senators Notes

Ottawa's rookie Coach Paul MacLean is shaking things up after being embarrassed by the Penguins Friday. He also needs to get his lead scorer Jason Spezza back on the boards. Spezza is the Sens leading scorer with 20 points but has yet to find the net  in November. Instead it's been his winger, Milan Michalek, setting the pace for goals with 12. 

Here's the Sens top line today:

G A P +/- PIM
2011 - 12 Jason Spezza 6 14 20 -3 10
2011 - 12 Milan Michalek 12 6 18 -5 4
2011 - 12 Colin Greening 6 4 10 -8 12

According to the Ottawa Sun's game preview expect the line up to look like

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek
Nick Foligno - Jesse Winchester - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Zenon Konopka - Stephane Da Costa - Bobby Butler


Erik Karlsson - Filip Kuba
Sergei Gonchar - Jared Cowen
David Rundblad - Chris Philips


MacLean will return to Craig Anderson as his starter in goal. Anderson was pulled early in Pittsburgh after giving up 4 goals on 8 shots by the midway point of the 1st period Friday.

For the Senators side of the game, head over to our SBN colleagues at Silver Seven or the Senators Hockey pages for the Ottawa Sun and the Ottawa Citizen.


Some links

Media Notes

  • If Pitkanen plays, it will be the 500th NHL game of his career. This will be Jiri Tlusty's 100th career game in the NHL.
  • Brandon Sutter (1g, 2a) and Tlusty  (2g, 1a) have goals and points in two straight games.
  • Carolina captain Eric Staal has 14 points (5g, 9a) in the last nine meetings against the Ottawa Senators and has points in eight of those contests. However, Staal has no goals since he put in the game winner vs Pittsburgh Nov 12th.
  • Cam Ward is 8-6-1 with a 2.65 GAA and one shutout in 16 career appearances against OTT. Brian Boucher is 1-8-1 with a 3.36 GAA in 11 games.
  • OTT point-per-game players vs. CAR: Colin Greening - two points (1g, 1a) in two games; Jason Spezza - 34 pts (14g, 20a) in 28 games.
  • Craig Anderson is 3-0-2 with a 3.10 GAA in five career games against Carolina. Alex Auld is 4-3-0, with a 2.99 GAA in eight games.


Planning your Sunday evening (and the week ahead)

With the 5pm game time, you can look for the Canes Country thread to open here about 30 minutes prior. The game will be broadcast by Fox Sports on your television or catch the radio coverage on 99.9 the Fan.

The Canes are home again Tuesday hosting the Division leading Florida Panthers as they continue there every-other-day pattern with the NY Rangers in town Thursday and the Penguins back on Saturday.