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Hurricanes vs. Panthers: Game Preview 1-18-14

The Hurricanes forward line of Eric Staal/Alex Semin/Jiri Tlusty was dominant in 2012-13. Reunited again, can they capture last season's magic?

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
January 18, 2014 - 7:00 pm ET
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas
Radio - 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: Litter Box Cats (twitter @LitterBoxCats)

Hurricanes Record: 19-18-9 (47 pts.)
Panthers Record: 18-22-7 (43 pts.)

After four days idle since their 2-0 shutout loss to the Calgary Flames Monday night, the Hurricanes play a two-game Sunshine State series this weekend, hosting the Florida Panthers tonight and the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night.

Tonight is the first season meeting between the Canes and the Cats, two teams that used to face each other with great regularity before conference realignment split them into separate divisions. They'll meet three times this year, once more here and once in Sunrise. They split the series last season with two wins apiece, the last one a 4-1 home loss in Raleigh on March 19, 2013.

Like the Canes, the Panthers are currently ranked seventh in their division, and also like the Canes, they enter tonight's game coming off a home shutout loss, 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

The Panthers are led in points by rookie Aleksander Barkov, who was drafted second overall in the 2013 entry draft. Barkov recently returned from the World Junior Championships where his Finnish squad defeated Elias Lindholm and Team Sweden for the gold medal, and he'll represent Finland in Sochi as well. He has 23 points (8g, 15 a) in 47 games. Brad Boyes, acquired in the off-season, leads the team with 10 goals, six shootout goals, and has five points in the last six games. The Hurricanes will see interim head coach Peter Horachek behind the bench for the first time, having replaced former Hurricane Kevin Dineen after he was fired as Florida's head coach on November 8, 2013. Last but certainly not least, the Canes will likely face Tim Thomas in net for the first time as a Panther. Thomas is 10-10-1 with a 2.68 GAA and one shutout in 21 career games against the Hurricanes, the most notable of them being the Eastern Conference semi-final series in 2009 when Thomas was in net for the Boston Bruins for the series loss to the Canes.

Projected Panthers line-up (based on Thursday's game):

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall

Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky

Krys Barch - Drew Shore - Jimmy Hayes

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

After reuniting the top forward line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, and Jiri Tlusty mid-way through Monday's game, Kirk Muller kept that line intact throughout this week's practices and will start them together tonight. Jeff Skinner was moved to a line with Elias Lindholm and Tuomo Ruutu. Otherwise the majority of the line-up has remained intact. Both Patrick Dwyer and Drayson Bowman missed a couple of practice days this week with a lower body ailments but practiced yesterday and will be in the line-up tomorrow. Cam Ward remains on injured reserve but has been involved in off-ice workouts and skating outside of formal practice.

Projected line-up:

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Jeff Skinner - Elias Lindholm - Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak
Riley Nash

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore
John-Michael Liles - Ryan Murphy
Mike Komiarek - Jay Harrison

Anton Khudobin
Justin Peters

Some quick Canes-related reading and listening links:

  • Kirk Muller [audio] from yesterday's practice
  • Tracking the Storm on the Top Line Reunion [article] and upcoming drive to the Olympic break, which by the way involves 11 games in the next 22 days [article].
  • Mark Armstrong from WTVD sat down with Jim Rutherford yesterday for a feature that was aired on the evening news. The raw footage in its entirety, which features content that did not make the broadcast, can be found here [video]. If you've read this far, and you do one more thing today, click and listen to his comments.

We'll have the open game thread ready to go by 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.