It’s not an understatement to say that tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets is one the most important of the last ten years for the Hurricanes organization. With thirteen games remaining in the regular season, the Canes have secured 83 points in the standings and hold the first wild card spot in the Eastern conference. The Columbus Blue Jackets are not far behind. They have 81 points while having played one more game than the Canes. They will be desperate to close the gap and solidify their own playoff position.
The last time an NHL playoff game was held at PNC Arena, it was known as the RBC Center. Since then, nine full seasons have passed. The Hurricanes have made four head coaching changes. A new majority owner is in place. The Canes have the opportunity tonight to win their 39th game of the season, the highest total since the 2010-2011 season when they finished with 40 wins and missed the playoffs by 2 points. Although tonight is not a playoff game, it should have the intensity of one. Both teams know the stakes are high.
For Rod Brind’Amour, Michael Ferland is available for tonight’s game. However, after Andrei Svechnikov’s three point performance against Colorado, it remains to be seen if Ferland will assume his old position alongside Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen. The head coach will not have the services of Calvin de Haan, who has been ruled out with an eye injury.
This is the sort of game where you rely on your stars to carry you, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the head coach lean heavily on the top two lines tonight. Everyone should be well-rested, having not played since Monday night in Denver. Although Curtis McElhinney has played great against his former teams this year, posting a 4-0-1 record; Petr Mrazek will get the start in net tonight. He is coming off a 38 save shutout in Denver, and he hasn’t lost a game since mid-February.
Below is the Canes’ projected lineup:
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Justin Williams
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Micheal Ferland - Lucas Wallmark - Jordan Martinook
Warren Foegele - Greg McKegg - Brock McGinn
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
Haydn Fleury - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Scratches: Calvin de Haan (upper body), Saku Maenalanen (healthy)
The Columbus Blue Jackets went all-in at the trade deadline, so there are some new faces in the lineup. They’re not unfamiliar faces though. The Canes saw Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel back on February 12th when they were still with the Ottawa Senators (Canes won 4-1). The Blue Jackets lineup is laden with highly paid upcoming unrestricted free agents including Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and the aforementioned Duchene and Dzingel. Since the trade deadline though, the results have been mixed. Head coach John Tortorella seems to have settled on Bobrovsky in net, as he’s started the last three games for Columbus.
Here’s how the Jackets will look tonight:
Artemi Panarin - Pierre Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Josh Anderson
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Riley Nash - Lukas Sedlak - Brandon Dubinsky
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Scott Harrington - Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Ryan Murray (upper body)