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Game Preview: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Philadelphia Flyers 4-20-13

The Hurricanes kick off Fan Appreciation Week against the Flyers tonight at PNC Arena.

Nicolas Blanchard overcame the odds to get an NHL start, and he'll play in his fifth game tonight vs. the Flyers.
Nicolas Blanchard overcame the odds to get an NHL start, and he'll play in his fifth game tonight vs. the Flyers.
Jamie Kellner

Carolina Hurricanes vs Philadelphia Flyers
Saturday, April 20, 2013 - 7:00 pm ET
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas HD --- Radio 99.9 The Fan
Tailgate Forecast: Partly Cloudy - High 66 - Low 42

SB Nation Flyers Blog: Broad Street Hockey (twitter @BroadStHockey)

Hurricanes Record: 17-23-3 (37 pts.)
Flyers Record: 19-22-3 (41 pts.)

Raise your hand if, at the beginning of the season, you thought a Saturday night game, the week before the end of the regular season, between the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers, would have no playoff implications. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Zippy. Yet that is where we find ourselves on this lovely April morning. The Hurricanes were eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday night in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets. The Flyers were officially eliminated when the New York Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres last night to put the Flyers out of reach of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

So, both teams begin the process of playing for pride and evaluating their options for the future as they wrap up their three-game series in Raleigh tonight. The two teams last met back in February and the Flyers bested the Canes in both (5-3 win on February 2nd, and 4-3 overtime win on February 9th).

Tonight begins Hurricanes Fan Appreciation Week, and there are a number of festivities planned including a South Plaza party, Stormy's Birthday Bash, Snap Shot Saturday, and a Jersey's Off a Player's Back event after the game. The Eye team store is also offering 50% off Hurricanes merchandise throughout the next week. For additional information, check the Fan Appreciation news release and promotions schedule.

Please also be aware that PNC Arena will have stricter security measures in place for tonight's game as a result of this past week's tragic events at the Boston Marathon, including removal of all exterior trashcans from the perimeter of the building. Please plan accordingly if you're attending the game.

Hurricanes Notes

The Hurricanes return to Raleigh after two games on the road, the most recent a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. That loss, coupled with a win by the New York Rangers, mathematically eliminated the Hurricanes from post-season play.

Tonight's game is the front end of a back-to-back. The Hurricanes will fly to Tampa tonight after the game to take on the Lightning tomorrow evening.

The status of forward Jeff Skinner remains the biggest outstanding question going into tonight's game. After sustaining a hit to the head from Jared Cowen in Tuesday night's game against the Ottawa Senators, all indications from the Hurricanes organization are that Skinner's status is positive and that there is a good chance he could return to the lineup. Skinner returned to Raleigh on Wednesday and medical evaluation indicated that he did not suffer a concussion. He was to skate on his own yesterday (the team did not practice), and a determination will be made after this morning's pre-game skate.

Congratulations to Justin Faulk who will play in his 100th NHL game tonight.

Forward Nicolas Blanchard will be playing in his fifth NHL game tonight. It took six years and over 300 games in the AHL, and a recovery from a horrific injury suffered in a team bus accident, for Blanchard to find the way to this point in his career. Please read Michael Smith's excellent feature story, Blanchard's Winding, Treacherous Road to the NHL.

Here's how the team lined up Thursday night. If Skinner is in the line-up, expect him to return to his role at left wing on the second line, shifting Tuomo Ruutu (coming off his best performance of the season with a two goals on Thursday night) to right wing, and shifting Chad LaRose to the third or fourth line. The Canes have been starting seven defensemen, so one of them would likely be a healthy scratch if Skinner is back.

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Tuomo Ruutu - Jordan Staal - Chad Larose
Nicolas Blanchard - Riley Nash - Patrick Dwyer
Tim Wallace - Marc-Andre Bergeron* - Kevin Westgarth

Tim Gleason - Justin Faulk
Jay Harrison - Joe Corvo
Bobby Sanguinetti - Jamie McBain

Justin Peters
Dan Ellis

* Bergeron 7th defenseman, centers will double-shift

Out of line-up: Cam Ward (IR, knee), Joni Pitkanen (IR, heel), Drayson Bowman (upper body), Tim Brent (lower body)

Flyers Notes

The Flyers last played on Thursday night, where they helped Martin Brodeur finally break his 666 win record in a 3-0 shutout loss to the New Jersey Devils. Until last night, the Flyers were still hanging on to thin playoff hopes, but a win by the New York Rangers officially eliminated them from the post-season.

The Flyers started the season slow and have never had a record above .500 at any point in the season, but could reach that milestone by winning all four of their remaining games.

Head coach Peter Laviolette put the team through a rigorous practice yesterday before leaving for Raleigh. In his post-practice comments he said that he may make line-up changes, especially on special teams, to try players in new situations. The Flyers have several call-ups who are being evaluated for next season, including defensemen Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning.

Recently-acquired goaltender Steve Mason will also be getting looks down the stretch and will likely get the start tonight although no decision has been announced. Since acquiring Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he has a 1-2-0 record with the Flyers and a 1.82 GAA and .941 save percentage. Ilya Bryzgalov started in the loss against the Devils and 18-17-3 with a 2.84 GAA and .898 save percentage.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and CSN Philly both have coach and player quotes from yesterday's practice session.

Probable line-up:

Simon Gagne - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Scott Hartnell - Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Ruslan Fedotenko - Adam Hall - Mike Knuble

Kimmo Timonen - Erik Gustafsson
Oliver Lauridsen - Luke Schenn
Brandon Manning - Kurtis Foster

Steve Mason
Ilya Bryzgalov

Flyers injuries: Maxime Talbot (leg), Zac Rinaldo (high ankle sprain), Jody Shelley (hip), Braydon Coburn (shoulder), Andrej Meszaros (shoulder), Nicklas Grossman (concussion), Bruno Gervais (torn stomach muscle), Kent Huskins (concussion).

We'll start the game thread at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.