Chris Higgins Returns tonight. source: Miami Herald

Southleast Showdown: Canes vs. Cats

Division rival Carolina comes into the Bank Atlantic Center tonight to face the Florida Panthers in a matchup of the worst teams in the Southeast Division.  The two teams have split their last eight meetings, but the Panthers are hoping to beat Carolina for the fifth consecutive time on home ice.

Eric Staal leads the Canes in goals (12), assists (16) and points (28).  A dozen more points than Florida’s point leader Michael Frolik who has 16.  Staal however is pointless in his last four games.  Matter of fact when you look at the TSN gameday preview, there are a few hurricane players with pointless streaks.

Carolina is coming off a 2-1 shootout victory over St. Louis Saturday night, which ended a four game losing streak.  Cam Ward made 38 saves in the victory.  Ward has a 1.61 GAA in his last nine starts.  Wards record in the Bank Atlantic Center is 4-5-0 with a 3.28 GAA, so he’s certainly beatable if the panthers are up to the task.

Returning tonight is forward Chris Higgins who has recovered from an infection in his foot, and defenceman Bryan Allen who has recovered from a broken bone is his foot.  Both will be welcomed additions to the team.  Allen has been steady on defence for the Panthers, but it’s Higgins who needs to find the net more and become more consistent.  Higgy currently has three goals in 23 games and must improve on that.

Tomas Vokoun most likely starts tonight and for good reason.  Vokoun is 7-1-2 at the Bank against Carolina with a 2.34 GAA in 11 starts.

Dmitry Kulikov gets to watch from the press box tonight as Pete the Bore sits the second year defenceman down.  Dmitry has struggled at times and doesn’t look comfortable at all.  With one goal and five assists in 26 games averaging 18 plus minutes of ice, he’s on pace right now to match last years point totals.  You’d have to think that with one year under his belt those numbers would improve.  He’s paired mostly with Bryan McCabe, however I would bet you that his defensive struggles are realted to the forwards not doing their jobs defensively.  That’s you Little Stevie!  throw a check once in a great while.

Speaking of Bryan McCabe, he has only one power play goal so far this season.  I guess the days of him getting 16 and 17 on the PP are over?  Well, at this point if he could end up with 7 or 8 I’d be pleased. The power play for Florida is still puttering along at a putrid 8% conversion rate.  Special teams are crucial for a group like this.  They must convert more of their chances to win some games.  I imagine losing by one goal is/has become a frustrating situation in the room.  A win tonight gets the Panthers one game below .500.

Can it be done?

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Tags: Cam Ward Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal Florida Pantehrs Michael Frolik Tomas Vokoun

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