Tonights matchup between the streaking Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers will be the last meeting of the season between these two division rivals with Florida attempting to even things up at three a piece. Although it’s unlikely that either team makes the playoffs, it hasn’t stopped Carolina from turning around their dismal start to the season as they come to town riding a seven game winning streak.
Despite goaltender Cam Ward’s abscence due to an upper body injury and the trading away of players Matt Cullen, Joe Corvo and Scott Walker the Canes are pushing like they are on a playoff hunt. They have won 11 of their past 13 games, a far cry from their early season 14 game losing streak.
Jussi Jokinen leads the team with 24 goals, and Eric Staal leads the team with 52 points after a horrible start himself. The Hurricanes have scored four or more goals in each of their last five games, including jumping to a 2-0 lead against Ottawa in the first seven minutes Thursday night. With Ward being out, they have been getting solid goaltending from rookie Justin Peters who has won his first three NHL starts and has a 1.34 GAA, and Manny Legace who is 4-0-0 with a 1.99 GAA since returning from an eye injury a month ago. Legace who is 37, is 3-1-0 against Florida with a 1.46 GAA.
The Panthers have a good goaltender of their own in Tomas Vokoun, and except for Wednesday night’s seven goal outburst against the Flyers, has been getting little offensive support as of late. Prior to that game the Panthers had not scored more than two goals in 14 consecutive games, the primary reason that it will be another non-playoff year for the Cats.
Stevie Weiss leads Florida in goals with 23 and each one he scores will set his season high. Too bad, he may have had a shot at 35 for the year, but as always his frail body couldn’t hold up, and injuries caught up to him, and he hit a dry spell. As well as the fact that we (not me) are just expecting way too much from him. David Booth is coming off his best performance of the season with one goal, three assists, and fought Mike Richards in the Flyer game Wednesday. Rookie defenceman Jason Garrison also notched his first NHL goal as well.
Tonight will be the debut of Byron Bitz recently acquired in the Dennis Seidenberg trade with Boston this week. Bitz will be on the second line with Cory Stillman and Steven Reinprecht. Oooohhhh, sounds like a line that could cause some damagae eh?! :(
Carolina with a victory in regulation will push past Florida in the overall standings. Seems that whenever these two teams play, it’s form positioning and the Panthers can’t seem to push past. If they can play with the same energy and mindset that they did against Philly on Wednesday, then a victory isn’t out of the question. However they’ve been inconsistent all year so don’t get your hopes up.
Note: For those of you who still are in love with Roberto Luongo, he was chased after the first period last night by the Chicago Blackhawks after giving up FIVE goals! Nice!
Don’t believe it? See for yourself here.
Mr. Siegel and Mr. Viner, I know you read this blog. Watch the video. Look at the Hawks. Want a blueprint to follow to rebuild? Follow theirs. Stadium packed every night, exciting and skilled players, with grit. And guess what, they are winning!
Thanks for reading.