Two years ago today, the Carolina Hurricanes won a double-overtime thriller in Game 7 of their first-round series over the Washington Capitals when Brock McGinn scored at 31:02 of overtime, a moment few Hurricanes fans will ever forget.
Neither the Capitals, thanks to the Covid-necessitated realignment, nor McGinn, out with an upper-body injury, will take part in tonight’s Hurricanes game, but the playoffs will still be in Carolina’s mind when they face the Florida Panthers for the eighth and final time this season. A win will punch the Hurricanes’ ticket to the postseason for the third straight season, which as Sarah said in this morning’s preview would be a first since the move to North Carolina, and only the second such streak in franchise history.
Rod Brind’Amour did not go into any lineup details this morning, other than to say that Alex Nedeljkovic would make his second consecutive start in goal. With Jordan Martinook likely out after suffering a lower-body injury on Thursday, the next man up on the taxi squad is Drew Shore, who could play his second game of the season against the team with whom he spent 67 games earlier in his career.
However, Brind’Amour also said that Jake Bean, who was scratched Thursday, could come back into the lineup, and it’s not inconceivable that the Hurricanes could go with seven defensemen instead.
Here’s how we project the Hurricanes to line up:
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Jesper Fast
Nino Niederreiter - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Warren Foegele - Jordan Staal - Morgan Geekie
Cedric Paquette - Drew Shore - Steven Lorentz
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Jake Gardiner - Brett Pesce
Joakim Ryan - Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries and Scratches: Petr Mrazek (lower body), Brock McGinn (upper body), Brady Skjei (concussion), Teuvo Teravainen (IR upper body), Jake Bean (healthy)
Taxi squad: Max McCormick, Drew Shore
Even back to the days when the Panthers and Hurricanes were Southeast Division rivals, the Hurricanes have never had much success in South Florida. Carolina is 26-27-4 with eight ties all-time against the Panthers on the road, and they’ve never won more than three games in a season when visiting Florida.
That could change tonight, as the Hurricanes look to not only sweep the Panthers in this series, but also in their building this season. Prior to now, the best the Hurricanes had done at BB&T Center was a 3-1-0 mark in the 2006-07 season. They could top that tonight, and book their playoff reservations at the same time.
After Sergei Bobrovsky took the loss on Thursday, the Panthers will turn to Chris Driedger for the first time since April 15 tonight. Florida’s lineup won’t look too different from the one that took the ice on Thursday; Noel Acciari, out with a lower-body injury, skated today but is unlikely to play tonight.
Here’s how the Panthers will look:
Nikita Gusev - Aleksander Barkov - Patric Hornqvist
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair
Frank Vatrano - Alex Wennberg - Ryan Lomberg
Eetu Luostarinen - Juho Lammikko - Owen Tippett
Gustav Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar
Markus Nutivaara - Brandon Montour
Keith Yandle - Radko Gudas
Injuries and Scratches: Aaron Ekblad (IR lower body), Mason Marchment (upper body), Carter Verhaeghe (upper body), Noel Acciari (upper body), Lucas Wallmark (healthy), Matt Kiersted (healthy), Noah Juulsen (healthy), Anton Stralman (healthy), Spencer Knight (healthy)
Taxi squad: Kevin Connauton, Scott Wilson, Cole Schwindt, Philippe Desrosiers
Referees: Frederick L’Ecuyer #17, Pierre Lambert #37
Linesmen: Libor Suchanek #60, Jesse Marquis #86