Certain corners of hockey fandom have wishcasted imminent failure on the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers for as long as they’ve existed in the NHL. “Their existence makes a mockery of our game!” you’d hear, often with a certain accent that’s prevalent north of the 49th parallel. “These places don’t appreciate hockey! They deserve less than nothing! They need to be moved yesterday to a real hockey market, like Flin Flon!”
Who’s laughing now?
The only two teams yet to lose in regulation this season meet tonight in Sunrise, the first of three matchups that could serve as a preview of a playoff series that would make heads explode in those aforementioned corners. The Hurricanes in particular have a shot at history on the line: only two teams in NHL history, the 1993 Toronto Maple Leafs and 2006 Buffalo Sabres, have begun the season with ten wins in a row.
You can bet the Hurricanes have every intention of becoming the third.
Rod Brind’Amour mixed up the lines to shake the Hurricanes out of the doldrums in Chicago on Wednesday, and had to reshuffle his defensive pairs out of necessity after Brett Pesce exited with an upper-body injury that will cost him at least a few weeks. It worked, and since the Hurricanes won it’s no surprise to see them go back to the same lineup again, but you can expect Brind’Amour to waste no time moving pieces around if they post another sluggish start.
Here’s how the Canes will look tonight:
Jordan Martinook - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Steven Lorentz - Derek Stepan - Seth Jarvis
Jaccob Slavin - Ethan Bear
Brady Skjei - Tony DeAngelo
Ian Cole - Brendan Smith
Injuries and Scratches: Nino Niederreiter (lower body), Brett Pesce (upper body)
The Panthers were undefeated when Joel Quenneville was forced out on October 28 as a result of his dereliction of duty uncovered by the investigation into the Kyle Beach sexual abuse cover-up. Since then, interim coach Andrew Brunette has led Florida to a 2-0-1 record, but unlike that undefeated run earlier in the season, the Panthers are now having to deal with a wave of injuries that has put their roster depth to the test.
Already without Markus Nutivaara, Sam Bennett and Joe Thornton, the Panthers lost Radko Gudas and Sergei Bobrovsky in the past two games, leaving them with a host of call-ups and fill-ins all over the lineup. The top of the Panthers lineup remains loaded, but that depth is going to get a big test tonight against a Hurricanes team capable of controlling play from anywhere in the lineup.
The Hurricanes may see an old friend on the other side of the ice: Gudas’ injury opened the door for Chase Priskie, a native of South Florida who was traded from Carolina to Florida in the Vincent Trocheck trade at the 2020 trade deadline, to make his NHL debut for his hometown team in the Panthers’ win over the Capitals on Thursday. If Gudas can’t go again tonight, Priskie will play his second game, this time against the team that first signed him to an NHL deal.
Here’s how the Panthers will (likely; they didn’t skate this morning) line up:
Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Reinhart - Owen Tippett
Mason Marchment - Anton Lundell - Maxim Mamin
Frank Vatrano - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Gustav Forsling - Radko Gudas
Brandon Montour - Kevin Connauton
Injuries and Scratches: Ryan Lomberg (healthy), Chase Priskie (healthy), Sergei Bobrovsky (upper body), Sam Bennett (IR upper body), Markus Nutivaara (IR undisclosed), Joe Thornton (IR undisclosed), Noel Acciari (IR undisclosed)
Referees: Brian Pochmara #16, Ghislain Hebert #22
Linesmen: Tyson Baker #88, Dan Kelly #98