SB Nation Rival Blog: Blueshirt Banter
Hurricanes Record: 34-33-11 | 79 pts | 7th Metro | 13th EC
Rangers Record: 43-31-5 | 91 pts | 2nd Metro | 5th EC
Games Remaining: 4
Points Back: 8
Playoff Chances (Sports Club Stats): 0.004%
Tragic Number: 1
The Carolina Hurricanes have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Yet. The scenario exists that if Columbus loses out, and the Canes win out, and the teams in between suffer losses in a majority of their remaining games, the Canes could pull even with the Blue Jackets and would win in a tiebreaker. There is a .004% chance of that happening, still higher than the chances of winning the North Carolina Cash 5 Lottery (1 in 575,757) or being struck by lightning (1 in 280,000). But the 'tragic number' is now down to one, and any point lost by the Canes or gained by the Jackets (who face Phoenix tonight) pounds the final nail in the postseason coffin.
With that said, the Hurricanes will play out the last week of their 2013-14 regular season schedule starting tonight:
The Rangers and Canes have played three prior games this season. The Rangers won 5-1 in early November at MSG, then the Canes followed up a 4-2 home loss on March 7th with a 3-1 home win just four nights later, snapping a ten-game losing streak against the Blueshirts.
The Rangers failed to clinch a playoff spot Saturday night when they lost 3-2 to the Senators in Ottawa, but were able to officially punch their ticket to the dance after last night's loss by the Devils. The Rangers are battling tightly with the Flyers for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Rangers recalled forward Jesper Fast from Hartford Wolf Pack yesterday, and he skated at practice with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, though the final line combinations will be re-evaluated before tonight's game.
Mats Zuccarello scored both goals in Saturday's loss to the Senators, and has four goals and seven points in his last four games.
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in net. Lundqvist has a 31-24-5 record season to date with a .919 save percentage and five shutouts, and said in his post-practice video that the team needed to "respect the skill" of the Hurricanes.
Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) remains day-to-day and is unlikely to be in the lineup tonight. Chris Kreider has been working out off the ice but still recovering from hand surgery.
After Saturday's 3-1 home loss to the Devils and a day off on Sunday, the Hurricanes returned to practice yesterday after wrapping up their annual team photo. All active players were back on the ice with the exception of Andrej Sekera, who is suffering a lower body injury and will be out tonight. Drayson Bowman should be able to return from illness that has kept him out of the lineup, and Jiri Tlusty (upper body) skated and may be able to return. Coach Kirk Muller indicated that Tlusty would be a game-day decision (post-practice audio).
With Tlusty's return, Monday's practice saw a return of some old familiar forward lines. Eric Staal was reunited with Alexander Semin and Tlusty. Andrei Loktionov, previously on Eric's line, was moved to the fourth line with Bowman, Manny Malhotra, and Radek Dvorak. Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe practiced on a line with Jordan Staal, while the recently impressive trio of Riley Nash, Jeff Skinner, and Elias Lindholm remained together.
Cam Ward occupied the starter's crease at yesterday's practice and could see the start in net tonight. Kirk Muller indicated that both Ward and Anton Khudobin are expected to get starts this week.
In other news, the Hurricanes held their third annual Alumni Fantasy Game on Sunday afternoon, drawing accolades from both fans and participants. Over $61,000 was raised for the Kids 'n Community Foundation. Check out the Hurricanes website for a recap, photo gallery, and video.
Finally, good eyes by Canes' Community Relations and Promotions Director Jon Chase to spot this great capture during last night's NCAA Championship game:
We'll have the game thread ready to roll by 6:30 pm. See you there.