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Carolina at Edmonton: Kirk Muller still looking for that elusive First "W"

The Carolina Hurricanes (8-17-4) are back in action tonight vs the young and much-improved Edmonton Oilers (13-11-3). Game time is 9:30 pm ET.

The Canes took another loss last night scoring six goals in a highly irregular effort which included the 3rd period NHL debut of rookie goaltender Mike Murphy, when Cam Ward was pulled with 9 minutes remaining having allowed six goals on 32 shots.

The Canes have now lost four straight under Coach Kirk Muller and are winless in the last 7. Don't ask about the standings, but let's say the vultures are circling.

That said, anything can happen. And probably will. After the jump, I speculate on some lines, and other notes to know.

The Hurricanes lost two key components of their roster in Calgary with Brian Boucher suffering a significant lower body injury in practice Monday and Joni Pitkanen going out with an UBI in the middle of last night's game. Boucher is headed home to Raleigh, but we haven't heard yet what Pitkanen's status is.

One note from last night's broadcast was that Jay Harrison did not make the trip as he is still recovering from the UBI suffered a couple weeks ago. The defenseman has yet to play for Muller.

If Pitkanen sits out, then Andreas Nodl, a healthy scratch Tuesday is likely in. Whether Eric Staal will still see double shifts on this 2nd of a back-to-back is unknown, but less likely.

Based on last night's third period, Muller may have discovered the popular Skins and Finns combination. The very effective third line was broken up with Brandon Sutter moved up and centering Alexei Ponikarovsky and Chad LaRose. Will that stick?

Given all that, here's a suggestion of what we might see:

Jiri Tlusty /Tim Brent - Staal - Patrick Dwyer / Anthony Stewart
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Ponikarovsky - Sutter - LaRose

And maybe a little of Nodl - Brent - Stewart, as needed.

Defensively, Muller seems to like Justin Faulk with Tim Gleason. How he will work with Tomas Kaberle (who was +3 last night), Jamie McBain (points in 2 straight), Bryan Allen, and finally Derek (you cannot make that turnover at the blueline) Joslin, will likely be an evolving series of decisions, once the effort and energy level is determined.

One might assume Cam Ward will get the start and Mike Murphy is backing up. The Canes will play their third in four nights Friday in Winnipeg, which opens the door slightly to the possibility Murphy might be a surprise starter. Please note the Murphy stat line showing the first time in the record books that a goaltender had been stuck with an NHL loss before ever giving up an NHL goal.

2011 - 12 Cam Ward 24 1368 8 12 75 3.29 733 658 .898 1
2011 - 12 Mike Murphy 1 9 0 1 0 0.00 2 2 1.000 0

The Oilers story

The rewards and results of years of cream of the crop draft picks is playing out in Edmonton this season. The run away favorite for this season's Calder Trophy, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is joined by Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.

Here are the stats through 27 games. These kids are alright.

G A P +/- PIM
2011 - 12 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 12 17 29 4 6
2011 - 12 Jordan Eberle 10 18 28 4 6
2011 - 12 Taylor Hall 7 11 18 1 12

The veteran presence of Ryan Smyth (35) and Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (38) adds to the interesting chemistry. (For comparison, the Hurricanes have no one on the team older than the 33-year-old Kaberle.)

Here are their respective stat lines.

G A P +/- PIM
2011 - 12 Ryan Smyth 12 14 26 5 37

2011 - 12 Nikolai Khabibulin 18 1049 9 6 35 2.00 511 476 .932 2

Finally a few links from Edmonton to see how they're welcoming the Hurricanes

The Copper & Blue - SBN's Oilers partner including their Game Preview.

Lowetide: G28 Hurricanes at Oilers I have tried in these years to hate Carolina, but it's hard to find bad things about a place where Nina Simone was born....I've tried to hate Jimmy Rutherford, but the man played for so many bad teams it doesn't seem fair to be angry at him for climbing Mount Stanley on the Oilers' watch.

This morning's story from the local paper: Blown leads a troubling trend for Oilers | Edmonton Journal Entombed in the rubble of a 1-2-1 home stand against less-than-imposing opposition lie a couple of interesting facts. The bad news of course is that over the last five of these games, the Oilers have blown the early lead each time. Even in the one game they won, against Columbus, Oilers had wasted the momentum of an extremely early powerplay goal and actually trailed 2-1 going into the third period, before coming on to win.

The Oilers official site includes this preview video:

And this ★★★★★ story on the Canes coach from yesterday, in the Calgary Herald - Muller still trying to adjust to new gig - Calgary Herald

Planning your late night viewing

The game starts at 9:30pm and we'll our live thread open by 9pm or so. Look for coverage from FSN on your television or at 99.9FM as usual on your radio dial.