SB Nation Islanders Blog: Lighthouse Hockey (twitter @Lighthousehockey)
Hurricanes Record: 18-24-3 (39 pts.)
Islanders Record: 24-16-5 (53 pts.)
Unlike the past couple of games, the Carolina Hurricanes play in a meaningful game tonight. The New York Islanders are in town and if the stars align properly for them, they could possibly clinch a playoff spot. They need a win over the Canes and a Jets loss, (in Washington tonight) and they are in.
Currently, there are four playoff spots still available and five teams to claim them. Someone will be left out, and even the red hot Washington Capitals could find themselves on the outside looking in, if they falter.
The Caps are sitting in first place in the Southeast with 52 points but the Jets are right behind them with 51 points. (The Caps have a game in hand). The other two teams in the mix, the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers each have 52 points and they are tied for seventh. The Jets are currently in ninth, so tonight is huge for them.
The Hurricanes are playing to win, even though points hurt them more than help them as far as draft positioning goes. Although, the luck of the draft lottery keeps teams from tanking altogether and most teams want to go out on a positive note, as do the Canes.
Carolina needs all the positive mojo they can muster, having lost nine of their last 10 home games. They are an ugly 3-15-2 in their last 20 games overall.
One team they have had some success against in the past is the Islanders. The Canes are 2-0 against the Isles in two meetings earlier this season, but lost all four games against the same team last season.
Jiri Tlusty has been red hot lately for Carolina and has points in five straight games, including two goals on Saturday night against the Lightning. Alexander Semin has points in three straight and Eric Staal has points in two.
The Hurricanes second line of Tuomo Ruutu, Jordan Staal, and Jeff Skinner has looked good too, although they have not been rewarded with many points lately. Can the third line of Chad LaRose, Riley Nash, and Patrick Dwyer get untracked?
Look for the Canes to possibly mix and match lines. The coaching staff has nothing to lose at this point.
Carolina head coach Kirk Muller has often been going with seven defensemen, so we will see if he does that again tonight. If so, then one of Kevin Westgarth, Tim Wallace, or Nicolas Blanchard will be scratched. Friday night the coach kept the fourth line intact and scratched Bobby Sanguinetti.
For those of you concerned about Tim Gleason and his injury from Saturday night, he was at the morning skate and will play tonight.
Justin Peters has been the go-to goalie lately, although Dan Ellis played well Saturday night and will get the call again tonight.
The Islanders have been playing very well of late and have won three games in a row. They are 8-0-2 in their last 10. The Hurricanes favorite goalie to light up, Rick DiPietro is gone and Evgeni Nabokov has been doing the heavy lifting as late. By the way, Nabokov is 8-1-1 lifetime against the Canes.
Obviously, John Tavares leads them in scoring with 45 points in 45 games with Matt Moulson close behind with 42 points in 44 games.
For more about the Islanders, check out Lighthouse Hockey.
We will have updates in the comments about any changes in their starters for tonight.
In other news:
The Brothers Staal, Eric and Jordan face off against each other in the second annual EA Sports NHL Cover vote campaign. If you would like to see one of these players on the cover, you can vote at this website: Cover Vote NHL.com. The also have hashtag Thursday voting on Twitter. Twitter Hashtag Assets