After almost two weeks away from home ice, the Carolina Hurricanes finally return to the RBC Center tonight to play host to the San Jose Sharks. This is the only meeting between the two teams this season. The Hurricanes won the only meeting last season, 5-2, in San Jose on October 19, 2010. The last time the teams met in Raleigh was November 1, 2009, a 5-1 loss on the night Ray Whitney was honored for his 1,000th NHL game.
The Hurricanes have not played since Monday night, an emotional victory in Montreal for Kirk Muller's first return to Centre Bell as Hurricanes head coach. Captain Eric Staal led the way with a three-point night (2g, 1a), and line mate Jiri Tlusty also chipped in a goal as he continues to steadily improve in his new role, with points in five straight games. Unfortunately the game was not without a casualty as leading goal scorer Tuomo Ruutu made an early exit after a hit from Tomas Plekanec. Ruutu suffered an upper body injury and is projected to be out for three weeks.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have embarked on a road trip that will see them log 7,750 miles in 16 nights while playing nine games, including three sets of back-to-back games. They will be facing the Canes in the third game of their road trip, at the end of a back-to-back series. The Sharks faced the Tampa Bay Lightning last night and did not fare well, losing 6-5 in overtime. Goaltender Antti Niemi was called out by his coach, Douglas Murray left with an injury, and to add insult to injury, fog in Raleigh kept the Sharks grounded Thursday night (or perhaps it was the extra cargo weight from picking up Dominic Moore?).
Hurricanes News and Notes
As mentioned, the Hurricanes (21-25-11, 53 pts.) have not played since Monday, but the days between games have not been without their share of drama. There was a scheduled day off Tuesday, then Wednesday's limited practice had a few fireworks as tempers got the better of Jeff Skinner and Patrick Dwyer, leading to a scuffle as practice wrapped up. Things heated up but cooled off quickly, and in the end everyone shook hands and had a laugh.
Kirk Muller: Wednesday Audio
A few interesting turns as well between practice on Thursday and today's pre-game skate. Jerome Samson, who must feel a little like a yo-yo after being recalled Sunday, sent down Tuesday, and recalled again Wednesday, will take Ruutu's spot on the line with Staal and Tlusty. Chad LaRose did not practice this week and is currently listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. There has been no call-up to replace LaRose's spot at forward. Defenseman Derek Joslin practiced with the forward lines on Thursday and again this morning. Muller intends to give the former Shark a start on the fourth line (and also use him as seventh 'D'). He praised Joslin for his demeanor after being scratched of recent, but also sent a strong message for some of the other prospects that were not recalled. Cam Ward had not practiced this week before today's skate. Muller said there is no injury issue with Ward (just a minor "tweak"), but with three games in four nights, he is getting additional rest and will likely start tomorrow night against the Islanders. Justin Peters will get the start tonight, his first since January 7th.
Kirk Muller: Thursday Audio
Kirk Muller: Friday Audio
Canes Now: Samson, Joslin ready for wing duty
Lines, based on today's pregame skate:
- Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Jerome Samson
- Drayson Bowman - Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen
- Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
- Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Derek Joslin
- Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
- Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
- Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain
- Justin Peters
- Cam Ward
|2011 - Justin Peters||2||118||0||2||9||4.58||88||79||.898||0|
Injuries: Joni Pitkanen (IR concussion/knee), Brian Boucher (IR, lower body), Tuomo Ruutu (upper body), Chad LaRose (upper body)
In other news, I'm not sure if there's a Finnish equivalent to "du jour", so here is the latest Tuomo Ruutu contract update:
Newsobserver. com: Canes Now - Ruutu contract decision expected next week
Michael Smith published a nice feature on Anthony Stewart with insight on his recent performance after going through the waiver process.
Luke DeCock's feature on Justin Faulk as a potential Calder consideration:
NewsObserver.com: Could Canes' Justin Faulk be a Calder contender?
And in local news Jeff Skinner was recognized as the Triangle's Sports Person of the Year, in a ceremony sponsored by the Raleigh Sports Council on Thursday night.
Sharks News and Notes
The San Jose Sharks (31-17-7, 69 pts.) have a firm grasp on first place in the Pacific division, with points and games in hand on both the Coyotes and the Kings. The Sharks are led by the two Joes - center Thornton and right-winger Pavelski - who have been on fire as of late. Over the past eight games, Thornton has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and Pavelski has 10 (five goals, five assists).
Goaltender Antti Niemi had a disappointing performance in last night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and was called out by head coach Todd McLellan. Defenseman Douglas Murray was injured in the first period of that game when he took a puck to the throat. Murray was taken to the hospital for precautionary observation and his status for the remainder of the road trip is unclear.
In an interesting "in arena" development last night, Lightning center Dominic Moore was held out of warmups as it was announced just minutes before puck drop that he had been traded (along with a 2012 seventh round draft pick) to the Sharks (in return for a second round pick). Moore is expected to provide depth and versatility as the Sharks prepare for their playoff run. According to twitter, some of the Sharks players did not know about the trade until after the game. Moore is expected to be in the lineup against the Hurricanes tonight.
Raleigh weather prevented the Sharks from flying out Thursday night, and they did not skate this morning at the RBC Center. Following are the Sharks' lines as they took the ice against the Lightning last night. With Moore in the lineup and Murray likely out, these lines will change, and it is possible the Sharks will have Thomas Greiss in net after Niemi's start and performance last night. if there is any media confirmation on line changes or starting goaltender, I'll publish an update.
UPDATE 4:30 PM - Greiss in net, Murray officially out, per the Sharks team blog.
- Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
- Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
- Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
- Brad Winchester - Andrew Dejardins - John McCarthy
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
- Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
- Colin White - Justin Braun
|2011 - Antti Niemi||43||2551||23||13||103||2.42||1200||1097||.914||4|
|2011 - Thomas Greiss||13||786||8||4||27||2.06||364||337||.926||0|
Martin Havlat and Jason Demers are both out of the Sharks line-up (injured reserve).
WRALSportsFan.com: Canes host Sharks in season's only meeting
For other news and updates on the Sharks, check out SB Nation affiliate Fear the Fin.
Game time is 7:00 pm on Fox Sports Carolinas and WCMC 99.9 The Fan. We'll have the open game thread starting at 6:30 pm, and Bob and Brian will be reporting live from the RBC Center. See you there.