Love is in the air, can you feel it? A little bromance, a few hockey hugs, perhaps a long term commitment kindling. Good times for sure as the Carolina Hurricanes return from a successful road trip to greet fans with a Valentines Day match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
@JustinFaulk27: Alright alright not much time left to find a valentines date ... #whattodo
@J_T_19: Valentines date ?? #singleProblems
@Brenter37: Looks like the most logical thing is for @JustinFaulk27 and @J_T_19 to just be each others date? #Valentines
Carolina Hurricanes vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 7:00 pm EST
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas HD Radio - 99.9 The Fan
Hurricanes Record: 7-4-1 (15 pts.)
Leafs Record: 8-5-0 (16 pts.)
Tonight marks the second of three meetings this season between the Hurricanes and the Maple Leafs. The teams last met just ten days ago in Toronto, with the Hurricanes posting a 4-1 win. Since that game, the Leafs have rattled off four straight wins, and the Hurricanes have gone 4-0-1 in their last five games and sit atop the Southeast Division.
The Leafs win streak was not without some adversity. Starting goaltender James Reimer had to leave Monday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a strained MCL that will keep him out of the line-up for several games. Jussi Rynnas has been called up to back up Ben Scrivens. Then yesterday it was reported that forward Matt Frattin will be out of the lineup while he undergoes a follow-up procedure on a previous knee surgery. This is an addition to injuries to Joffrey Lupul (broken forearm), Mike Brown (upper body), and Carl Gunnarsson (hip).
Here's how the Leafs lined up for practice in Frattin's absence:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Leo Komarov
Jay McClement - Nazem Kadri - Clarke MacArthur
Colton Orr - David Steckel - Frazer McLaren/Mike Brown (IR)
The Hurricanes will be down to one Finn, as Joni Pitkanen will not be in the line-up tonight. Pitkanen is day-to-day with a lower body injury that is reported not to be a recurrence of a previous injury. He will be missed on the blueline, leading the team in time on ice per game (24:30) with a plus/minus of +8 and tied with Jay Harrison for top points by a defenseman with 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists). Bobby Sanguinetti, who was a healthy scratch for the last two games, will be in the line-up to replace Pitkanen.
Both teams have players on hot streaks. Leafs defenseman Cody Franson has a four-game point streak, forward James Van Riemsdyk has four goals in his last four games, and his linemate Phil Kessel has seven points in those same four games.
For the Hurricanes, the top line of Eric Staal/Alexander Semin/Jiri Tlusty continues to stay "as hot as the Devil's underworld" (Tripp Tracy). All three players are in the NHL's top 10 in plus/minus. Tlusty has five goals in his last three games, and Eric Staal has a 10-game point streak.
The Hurricanes are sponsoring two events this week to benefit the Kids 'n Community Foundation. There is a Valentines Day mystery teddy bear fundraiser in the arena at tonight's game, and Skate with the Canes will be held tomorrow night and tickets are still available. Visit the Kids 'n Community Foundation page for more details.
The Hurricanes are offering a special "stretch drive" ticket plan with special pricing on a package of upcoming games. Visit here for details.
99.9 The Fan had a call with head coach Kirk Muller yesterday to get his thoughts coming out of the road trip, you can listen to the replay here.
Michael Smith spoke with general manager Jim Rutherford to get his thoughts on the road trip for his Tracking the Storm blog.
We'll have the game thread ready to roll at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink!