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Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers: Game Preview, Lineups and Discussion

It’s a time machine special: the Hurricanes’ hopes of winning the division could rest, at least in part, on the performance of Eric Staal in tonight’s game.

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Gather ‘round, friends, it’s time for Brian’s Old Crank Story Hour.

Let’s reset the Wayback Machine to April 4, 2008 at what was then the RBC Center. The Florida Panthers were the visitors that night, and the Carolina Hurricanes had all the incentive in the world to continue their 14-game winning streak against the Panthers in Raleigh.

With a win, the Hurricanes would win the division, rendering the next night’s Panthers/Capitals game in Washington meaningless. Lose, and the Hurricanes’ playoff hopes would be taken out of their hands; a Caps win the following night would not only prevent the Canes from claiming a division title, it would knock them out of the playoffs entirely.

You can guess what happened.

And then you can also guess what happened the next night.

It was actually the first of two times the Hurricanes would be knocked out of a playoff spot in game 82 over the span of four years; in 2011 the Lightning curb-stomped the Canes 6-2 in the final game of the season to prevent Carolina from making the playoffs, which they would have done with a win.

And so, here we are again, same teams, slightly different scenarios (and a different arena), but the bottom line remains the same. If the Hurricanes beat the Panthers in the regular season finale tonight, the division title is theirs. If not, their fate is out of their hands.

Here’s hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

Game Notes

  • What’s at stake tonight is pretty simple to explain. If the Hurricanes gain an equal or greater number of points than the Devils tonight (who play the Caps on the road; the irony is duly noted), they win the division and will face the Islanders in round one (with one exception, listed below). If not, the Canes will be second and will face the Rangers in the first round.
  • The only scenario in which the Canes face the Panthers in the first round is if the Canes and Devils both lose in regulation tonight.
  • Broward County was drenched by almost two feet of rain yesterday and more is on the way tonight. The Canes actually had to fly into Miami, 45 minutes south, because the Fort Lauderdale airport is currently an extension of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Both games this year between these two teams have been shutouts by the home team. The Canes fell 3-0 to Spencer Knight on November 9, and Antti Raanta returned the favor on New Year’s Eve Eve in a 4-0 whitewashing.
  • Six Hurricanes players, assuming they suit up tonight, will have played every game this season. The honor roll: Brent Burns, Brett Pesce, Seth Jarvis, Jordan Martinook, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Martin Necas. Jordan Staal and Brady Skjei both miss by a single game.
  • There is a very Carolina flavor to the Panthers’ organization, and you can expect the #narrative to be flowing fast and furious if they end up playing each other in the first round. Paul Maurice and Tuomo Ruutu behind the bench; Paul Krepelka in the front office; Eric Staal, Eetu Luostarinen and Gustav Forsling on the ice; and Alex Lyon, who was 1-0-1 for the Canes last year, in net to start tonight.
  • Just win, baby.

Projected Lineups


Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Stefan Noesen - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jack Drury - Paul Stastny - Jesse Puljujarvi

Jaccob Slavin - Brent Burns
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Shayne Gostisbehere - Jalen Chatfield

Frederik Andersen
Antti Raanta

Injuries and Scratches: Calvin de Haan (healthy), Dylan Coghlan (healthy), Derek Stepan (healthy), Max Pacioretty (LTIR Achilles), Andrei Svechnikov (LTIR knee), Ondrej Kase (LTIR concussion)


Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Sam Reinhart
Eetu Luostarinen - Anton Lundell - Matthew Tkachuk
Ryan Lomberg - Eric Staal - Anthony Duclair
Nick Cousins - Colin White - Givani Smith

Gustav Forsling - Aaron Ekblad=
Marc Staal - Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura - Radko Gudas

Alex Lyon
Sergei Bobrovsky

Injuries and Scratches: Casey Fitzgerald (healthy), Sam Bennett (groin), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR concussion), Spencer Knight (personal - PAP)

Tonight’s Officials
Referees: Francis Charron #6, Chris Lee #28
Linesmen: Libor Suchanek #60, Michel Cormier #76