As the Carolina Hurricanes prepared for their Game 6 clash with the Washington Capitals back on April 22nd, the question of whether that game would be the final game of the year loomed large. Since then, things have changed.
The Canes have won four straight overall and three straight on the road. The last three wins - all one goal affairs - were road games in either Washington or Brooklyn.
Now the Canes return to PNC Arena with a 2-0 series lead against the New York Islanders. While a win tonight would put the Canes on the verge of a series sweep, the big picture has to remain in focus. The Canes need two more wins - of any variety - to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. They’ve come a long way since Game 6.
At home, the Canes (and the fans) have been impressive. PNC Arena is once again drawing comparisons to some of the NHL’s loudest and most iconic buildings. The results back up the hype. The Canes boast a 3-0 record at home (tied with Columbus for best in the league) and have outscored their opponents 12-3. Tonight, Petey Pablo gets it going on the siren, with help from a certain fan favorite.
Much of the focus during the three-day sabbatical in the series was on the Hurricanes’ players injured during Game 2. Trevor van Riemsdyk, Petr Mrazek, and Saku Maenalanen all left Game 2 with injuries that will keep them out of tonight’s lineup. Maenalanen and van Riemsdyk appear out for the remainder of the series, at least. Mrazek is day-to-day after appearing to tweak a muscle in net. Rod Brind’Amour has not ruled him out for Game 4, but Alex Nedeljkovic will serve as back-up to Curtis McElhinney tonight. Speaking of McElhinney, he will be making his first career playoff start about a month shy of his 36th birthday.
The attention spent on new injuries obscured the news that reinforcements were on the way. It appears that Andrei Svechnikov will play tonight and that Jordan Martinook will be a game-time decision. Clark Bishop looks to be the next man up if Martinook can’t go.
In a series where goal-scoring has been at a serious premium, the addition of Svechnikov could be an enormous boost for the Canes. Look for him to play 4th line minutes in the first period and perhaps a turn on the 2nd power play unit. However, if he’s truly back to himself, his minutes should increase as the game goes on. Svechnikov’s skill, strength, and vision are precisely the types of weapons that can break down a team like the Islanders, who are built on keeping the puck to the outside and away from their net.
Below is the Canes’ projected lineup:
Brock McGinn - Sebastian Aho - Justin Williams
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Warren Foegele - Lucas Wallmark - Jordan Martinook
Andrei Svechnikov - Greg McKegg - Patrick Brown
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
Haydn Fleury - Calvin de Haan
Injuries and Scratches: Micheal Ferland (upper body), Saku Maenalanen (hand surgery), Clark Bishop (healthy), Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body), Petr Mrazek (lower body), Jake Bean (healthy)
After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 of the playoffs, the Islanders have gotten off to a rough start in Round 2. Not only did they lose both games in Brooklyn, they also failed to see any of their shots turn into a goal. After being shutout in Game 1, their only tally thus far in the series came off a Jaccob Slavin deflection - an own goal of sorts.
Even so, the Islanders sound confident and have set a goal of winning both games in Raleigh. Their goaltender - Robin Lehner - remains hot with a playoff save percentage of .952 and goals-against-average of 1.47.
Cal Clutterbuck sustained an injury late in Game 2 and will be a game-time decision. Michael Dal Colle - a healthy scratch in Game 2 - appears to draw in if Clutterbuck is a no-go.
Here’s how New York will line up tonight:
Anders Lee - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Michael Dal Colle
Anthony Beauvillier - Valtteri Filppula - Leo Komarov
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Tom Kuhnhackl
Nick Leddy - Thomas Hickey
Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews - Scott Mayfield
Injuries and Scratches: Johnny Boychuk (lower body), Andrew Ladd (torn ACL), Tanner Fritz (hand surgery), Luca Sbisa (healthy), Ross Johnson (healthy), Dennis Seidenberg (healthy), Cal Clutterbuck (lower body)