Well, here we are again: a trip to lovely Sunrise, Florida, in early April with nothing on the line except professional pride. The Carolina Hurricanes’ final-week tour of the east coast begins tonight in a game that looked a few weeks ago like it would hold considerably more importance than it actually does now that we’ve arrived at this point.
Justin Faulk’s upper-body injury has flared up again, and Bill Peters said this morning at the pregame skate that it will cause him to miss tonight’s game. Anticipating this, the Canes recalled Roland McKeown from Charlotte yesterday and will slot him into the lineup tonight. Peters praised the play of Valentin Zykov on Saturday, and Zykov will get another shot with some skilled linemates tonight as Sebastian Aho moves back to center after being bumped to the wing in the Canes’ comeback attempt against the Rangers.
Scott Darling will be in net tonight, looking for his first two-game winning streak of the season (yes, it’s April, and you read that correctly). Here’s how the Canes will line up:
Brock McGinn - Jordan Staal - Justin Williams
Jeff Skinner - Elias Lindholm - Phil Di Giuseppe
Valentin Zykov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Joakim Nordstrom - Derek Ryan - Lee Stempniak
Jaccob Slavin - Klas Dahlbeck
Noah Hanifin - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Haydn Fleury - Roland McKeown
The Florida Panthers need a miracle to make the playoffs. Even running the table would leave them three points behind New Jersey if the Devils don’t lose the rest of the way, and with three of their final five games against the Predators and Bruins, the Panthers need a win in the worst way tonight or their playoff chances are all but toast.
Henrik Borgstrom, the 2016 first-round pick who played in two Panthers road games after his Denver Pioneers lost in the second round of the Frozen Four tournament to Ohio State, will serve as a healthy scratch tonight. He will have to wait to make his home debut - and, presumably, will miss a golden opportunity to score his first career goal, because we all know how these things go. Borgstrom will join erstwhile Hurricanes legend Radim Vrbata in the press box.
Bob Boughner is spreading out the scoring a bit, putting two of the team’s top four scorers on each of the top two lines. The Canes’ defense will have a tall order against some serious firepower, led by Aleksander Barkov up top and 30-goal scorer Vincent Trocheck centering the second line. Here’s how the Panthers will look tonight:
Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Nick Bjugstad
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Jamie McGinn
Denis Malgin - Jared McCann - Frank Vatrano
Micheal Haley - Derek McKenzie - Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
MacKenzie Weegar - Alex Petrovic