SB Nation Rival Blog: Second City Hockey
Hurricanes Record: 30-30-9 | 69 pts | 7th Metro | 12th EC
Blackhawks Record: 40-15-15 | 95 pts | 2nd Central | 4th WC
Games Remaining: 13
Minimum Points Needed: 92
Points Back: 23 (1.77 points/game)
Playoff Chances (Sports Club Stats): 1.1%
Tragic Number: 18
The Hurricanes and Blackhawks meet tonight for the second and final time this season. The two teams faced each other in Raleigh on October 15th. After spotting the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead, goals by Alexander Semin and Ron Hainsey forced overtime, and Patrick Sharp won it for the Hawks in a shootout.
The Blackhawks are second in the Central Division but neck-and-neck with the Avalanche who are just a point back. Both teams have a firm lead over the Wild (12 points) and it will be a stretch to catch up with the St. Louis Blues (six points ahead).
Chicago blanked the Blues 4-0 on Wednesday night, with Michal Handzus playing in his 1000th career NHL game and head coach Joel Quenneville earning his 700th career NHL regular season win (just the third to reach that milestone behind Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour). That win came at a cost, however, as Hawks' leading scorer Patrick Kane (29g, 40a, 69 pts) went down with an apparent knee injury and is expected to miss two to three weeks.
With Kane's absence there will be some roster changes but the extent is unknown at this time. The Blackhawks didn't practice yesterday but they'll do so this morning at 10:30 am (you can watch it live here). Brandon Saad has missed two games with an upper body injury but may be able to return tonight. Yesterday Chicago signed free agent forward Matt Carey (St. Lawrence University) to a two-year contract, and he will be reporting to the team. Chicago is all abuzz with the arrival of Tuevo Teravainen, their 2012 first rounder (drafted 18th overall), who wrapped up his season with Jokerit in Finland and is due to arrive and be introduced today but is unconfirmed as to whether he will actually play (great article in the Sun-Times about some of the considerations). The Blackhawks will likely also make a call-up from their AHL affiliate Rockford Ice Hogs.
One player the Hawks won't need to worry about, but the Canes will, is Patrick Sharp, who is only one point behind Kane in scoring stats (29g, 39a, 68 pts). Sharp tallied a goal and the shootout winner in Raleigh in October, and has eight points in his last nine games played. The Blackhawks lead the league in goals per game (3.31).
Corey Crawford is expected to get the start in net; he's 2-2-0 with a 2.45 GAA in four career games against the Canes. Backup Antti Raanta has not faced the Canes to date.
The Hurricanes started off their three-game road trip on the right foot with a 3-1 win against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. It was the first win in Columbus since 2004 and was thanks in a large part to a 46-save performance from goaltender Anton Khudobin, who will likely get his first career start against the Blackhawks tonight.
The Canes practiced yesterday in Chicago, and it appears a few players may be making their way back into the lineup, causing a little shuffling. The tantric line of Staal (11), Staal (12) and Semin appear to be in place for a second straight game. Elias Lindholm, who missed Tuesday's game due to illness, will be back on a line with Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner, and Jiri Tlusty appears to be ready to return from a lower body injury that has kept him out for two games. He practiced yesterday with Andrei Loktionov and Nathan Gerbe. In anticipation of Tlusty's return, Chris Terry was reassigned to Charlotte after Tuesday's game; Terry logged close to 14 minutes TOI in Tuesday's effort including quite a few looks on the power play.
On defense, Justin Faulk will also likely return after also missing Tuesday's game with illness. John-Michael Liles has been sidelined with a concussion but has resumed skating with the team, though his status is unknown. Ryan Murphy took a hard hit along the boards Tuesday night and left the game with an upper body injury, but was able to practice yesterday albeit in a no contact jersey.
Of note, the Canes are 7-1-1 in their last nine games against defending Stanley Cup champions.
We'll have the game thread ready to roll by 7:30 pm. See you there.