Hurricanes Record: 13-13-7 (33 pts.)
Coyotes Record: 18-8-5 (41 pts.)
The Carolina Hurricanes wrap up a Western Conference road swing tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes. Tonight will mark the final game of a four-game road trip and the sixth straight against a Western Conference opponent. The Hurricanes arrive in Glendale with a regulation loss and two overtime losses during the trip, the latest a 2-1 loss to Calgary in the final seconds of overtime on Thursday night. The Coyotes have won two straight, their latest a 6-3 home victory against the Islanders also on Thursday night.
The two teams met earlier this season, on October 13 in Raleigh, and it was not a pleasant outcome for the home team. After losing goaltender Anton Khudobin to an ankle injury suffered during the second period (he has missed the 27 games since), the Hurricanes squandered numerous power play advantages (including almost two minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage) and a 3-3 tie going into the third period to eventually lose 5-3. The game featured a plethora of penalties in the third, including embellishment calls against both teams, that further disrupted the flow of the game. Head coach Kirk Muller commented afterwards that there were too many "passengers" and some of the top guys didn't bring their 'A' game.
The Coyotes come into tonight's game with an impressive 8-1-1 record against Eastern Conference opponents. Despite having 8 more points than the Canes, they are fourth in the Pacific Division and eighth in the Western Conference.
Forward Rob Klinkhammer was the star of the October game against the Canes with the first multi-goal game of his NHL career, and he bested that effort on Thursday night with a three-point performance (2 g, 1a). Mike Ribeiro, who leads the Coyotes with 26 points (9g, 17a), also had a three-point night Thursday. The Coyotes are able to generate a lot of offense with balanced scoring. Seven players have more than 20 points season to date (contrast that with two on the Canes roster with over 20). They rank 5th in the NHL in goals scored per game, 7th in shots per game, and have a 7th ranked power play.
The Coyotes did not practice Friday, so there will be no updates regarding their roster until later in the day after their morning skate. Captain Shane Doan has been out of the lineup with an unspecified illness and remains questionable. Derek Morris has been out with a personal matter and while he is expected back in the lineup his status remains questionable as well. Lauri Korpikoski remains out with an upper body injury.
Projected lineups based on Thursday's game:
The Hurricanes record of late hasn't been good, but it's been good enough to stay in playoff position. Through last night's games they remain third in the Metro division albeit with three other teams nipping at their heels.
Jeff Skinner remains red hot with nine points (7g, 2a) in his last six games, including the solo goal on Thursday. Eric Staal has 16 points (5g, 11a) in his last 15 games.
The Canes practiced Friday in Calgary before leaving for Phoenix, but there was no news from practice other than an update via twitter from Chantel McCabe that two injured players were on the ice. Elias Lindholm, who left Thursday's game after taking a hard hit during the first period, was at practice, and Brett Bellemore, who has been out since December 3 with a concussion, was practicing in regular (contact) practice gear. Both are questionable for return tonight.
The Canes are not practicing today in Glendale, so new information is unlikely until closer to game time. The projected line-up is my swag based on the game Thursday and how the forwards are most likely to line up if Lindholm is out:
We'll have the open game thread up and rolling by 7:30 pm. See you there.