It's a new month and tonight's Southeast Division game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers features several new faces for both clubs, including a trio players who were swapped over the last few days. For the Canes Cory Stillman and Bryan Allen are ready to face a team they have been part of for multiple seasons, while the Panthers flew in last night to meet their new winger, Sergei Samsonov, a Hurricane since 2008.
Poor Peter DeBoer. The Sunrise Deadline Day Inventory Liquidation Sale (plus a couple injuries) must have the Panthers head coach scanning his roster card just to remember who's who. In just the last week, GM Dale Tallon has traded away the Florida Captain (Bryan McCabe) and an Alternate (Stillman), two more of their veteran defensemen (Allen and Dennis Wideman), and two wingers (Chris Higgins and Radek Dvorak). That's six of 18 regulars among his 10-11 skaters. Add to that two more forwards who have been moved to the IR recently (Jack Skille, himself a new acquisition, and Rostislav Olesz). On the Panthers Official website, only five defenseman are listed. Either this team will be a display of hockey chaos tonight, or they'll be so loose knowing they have nothing more to lose that their play will be difficult to defend as they just keep it simple and live in the moment.
But that's not the Hurricanes problem, is it? They've got to focus on their own game plan. With the roster fixed from now through April 9th, barring injuries, tonight the Canes can begin the final nineteen game push to the post season. As stated above, Jim Rutherford added a few parts himself over the last week. The team welcomes back Captain Eric Staal after a one-game rest from the UBI suffered vs Pittsburgh Friday. And we can't forget Jay Harrison, who has only furthered his campaign as "Most Improved Cane of the 10-11 Season" with his never-saw-that-coming offensive prowess of late. Harrison returns to the blueline after being too sick to play in Montreal and will be paired with fellow big man blueliner, Bryan Allen.
Finally, Coach Paul Maurice has made an adjustment to spark Jeff Skinner and his linemates whose production has been anemic of late. Will there be some fresh energy coming from the new faces and new opportunities at hand?
To help you keep track of these moves, we have your Canes Country's Game Guide: Hurricanes vs Panthers ready to print out for reference during the game with updated stats and notes. One more important item: The game will not be televised on local TV, so if you can't get to the game live, look for Center Ice or be content with the always excellent radio call from Chuck Kaiton.
After the jump, the lineups, the expectations and what's at stake.
Hurricanes Lines and Pairings
The biggest adjustment is seeing Skinner moved to center as he was in Montreal, and Tuomo Ruutu moving back to his preferred right wing, with Chad LaRose sliding over to the left side. This was somewhat anticipated by Maurice's comments prior to the game in Montreal where he suggested the second line needing a move to hopefully jumpstart its scoring. According to the morning skate, these will be the lines, (center listed first):
Staal - Stillman - Cole
Skinner - LaRose - Ruutu
Sutter - Jokinen - Tlusty
Dwyer - Samson - Bodie
The Defensive pairings will start:
Gleason - Corvo
Pitkanen - McBain
Harrison - Allen
Cam Ward will get his 23rd consecutive start. He is within five of his career high of 28 consecutive starts, a run he saw in the spring of 2009 en route the Eastern Conference Finals. In his career vs the Panthers, Ward has a record of 11-7-1, with a 3.21 GAA in 22 appearances.
And a couple related pieces from the N&O and the Canes today
Canes Now - Stillman: Allen adds physical presence "He's going to give us a physical presence, that's for sure," Stillman said. "He's a big man, he plays the body, he plays hard. He also has a heavy shot that if we get the puck to him in the offensive zone, he can score some goals."
Staal healthy; Canes add defenseman - NewsObserver.com When all was done Monday, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford sat back and said, "We're real pleased with the way the day turned out."
Allen, Samsonov Surprised by Circumstances, not Trade - Tracking the Storm Blog Even though Bryan Allen and Sergei Samsonov weren’t surprised to be traded, they couldn’t have imagined it would work out like this.
Stephen Weiss - David Booth - Niclas Bergfors*
Mike Santorelli - Samsonov* - Steve Bernier
Marty Reasoner - Kenndal McArdle ^ - Michal Repik^
Scott Timmons ^ - Darcy Hordichuk - Hugh Jessiman^
Struggling to identify the 6 defensemen in the Panthers sweaters tonight, I finally found the beat writer for the AHL Rochester Amerks who had it all figured out. Look for
Dimitry Kulikov, Mike Weaver, Jason Garrison and newcomers, Alexander Sulzer*, Joe Callahan^, and Keaton Ellerby^
(Notes: * recent acquisition for Panthers; ^ recent AHL call up. This includes Hugh Jessiman who got some notice around the league this past weekend as the 30th and final player from the first round of the remarkable 2003 Entry Draft to play in the NHL.) The upshot of all this is that nine out of DeBoer's 18 skaters can be considered "new guys".
Scott Clemmensen will get the start in goal. In seven career games vs the Hurricanes, Clemmensen is 2-3-0, with a GAA of 3.22.
UPDATE: On Frozen Pond's "Quick Video" Series from the RBC Center today
- Traded Panther Edition: Cory Stillman Gets A Silver Stick in honor of his 1000th game. (Does this seem awkward or is it just part of the hockey business?)
- OnFrozenFilm, Traded Panther Edition: Bryan Allen Definitely worth seeing (overlaps with audio link provided by Canes above).
- On Frozen Film, Traded Panther Edition: Panther Cory Stillman
- On Frozen Film, New Panther Edition: Sergei Samsonov
The Bold Red Line
Despite their inconsistency, the Canes seem to be holding on to the 8th and final position above the playoff cutline, but earning 2 points in the standings out of tonight's game is critical. The Buffalo Sabres are only 2 points behind with 2 games in hand. The New York Rangers made some solid acquisitions this week and are hanging in at 7th, 3 points ahead of the Canes.
Adding to the uncertainty of all this, these two teams are playing against each other at Madison Square Garden tonight, and according to the "go to" source for calculating chances to make the playoffs, Sports Club Stats, the Canes should hope the Rangers get the win, and do so in regulation.
The Buffalo Sabres' next stop is right here in Raleigh, North Carolina. They will be the Hurricanes' next opponent on Thursday in what is likely to be another play-off caliber game to say the least.
Again, a reminder will not be televised by FoxSportsCarolinas but the Florida feed will be on Center Ice if that is available to you. You can also listen to the familiar voice of the Canes' Chuck Kaiton and Mike Maniscalco with their wall-to-wall coverage on 99.9 the Fan. We will open our game thread at 6:30, as always.