CAROLINA HURRICANES: 10-18-5 (25 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 17-9-6 (40 PTS.)
GAME TIME: 5:00 P.M. EASTERN
OPPOSITION SITE: CARDIAC CANE
The Carolina Hurricanes come into South Florida looking for their second consecutive win of the season, which would be the first time it’s happen in almost a month. Therein lies the story for this struggling team. Inconsistency. The Canes sit 15th in the Eastern Conference and 29th in the league overall are struggling to find an identity. New coach Kirk Muller has guided them to a 2-5-1 record since taking over, and you almost have to give him the benefit of the doubt for the entire season. It’s difficult to come in without the benefit of a training camp to straighten out the problems of a bad team. Yes, I can say that the Canes are a bad team. My good friend Kristina Kelly at Cardiac Cane has told me so.
Muller does feel the Canes are playing better, and points to the victory Thursday against Vancouver as proof. Down 2-0, the Canes rallied back for a 4-3 victory over the surging Canucks. But that victory was just the second in the past 11 tries for Carolina. Goal scoring leader Jeff Skinner is out of the lineup with flu symptoms. Defencemen Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison are also out with upper body injuries affecting an already weak blue line. A recent trade of defencemen saw the Canes admit the Tomas Kaberle signing was a mistake and sent him packing to the Montreal Canadians for former Panther Jaroslav Spacek.
The biggest surprise is the struggles of captain Eric Staal who after 33 games has only seven goals and 20 points, but his +/- is a
nifty gaudy -18. Cam Ward is expected to be in goal for the Canes, has a 5.45 GAA and an 0-3-0 record in his last four starts in Florida. He made 18 saves in the loss to the Panthers last month.
The Panthers will be coming off a shootout victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night, in a tightly fought battle which shouldn’t have gone that long, but nonetheless it did. Stephen Weiss put the winning goal past rookie netminder Leland Irving in the shootout, and Jose Theodore stopped the final Flame shot for the win. It was a game where the it seemed the Panthers never found their legs and they were the team that was rested.
It was good to see however secondary scoring, even though it came from one player, Sean Bergenheim who grabbed a couple much needed “dirty” goals in the crease. The line of Bergenheim, Shawn Matthias and Tomas Kopecky played their tails off for the entire night. Fortunately they were rewarded with a win for their efforts. Now if this effort can spread among the other forwards, victories will continue to pile up.
Impressive also was the play of the FlashMob Line, especially Kris Versteeg. Versteeg had numerous scoring chances and was flying all night. He also played with some snarl as he and Flames Captain Jarome Iginla were sent off simultaneously for roughing, and continued jawing at each other for most of the two minutes that they spent in the sin bin. Adding to the nastyness, Krys Barch received his customary two minute minor early in the game, but as long as the Panthers aren’t put at too much of a disadvantage by his aggressiveness I’m not overly bothered by his display of toughness. Look kids, we can’t have it both ways. We want a tough guy and a tough team. He’s doing his job, and we aren’t getting run over as much any more either. Mission accomplished.
This will be the second of four crucial home games for the Panthers at a very important time of year. A six point lead over Winnipeg can be extended to eight tonight with a victory. Greg Rallo will be making his NHL debut tonight as he’s been recalled from San Antonio to take the place of injured forward Jack Skille who is out with a separated shoulder. Rallo will be the second 30 year old making his NHL debut in a Panthers uniform this season*
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and suggestions.
Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @TheRatTrick , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht@joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Cameron Tahernia @Lord_Panther, David Rodriguez @davidbub_2 and Paige Lewis @peejlewiz. Also, please join our Facebook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and make some comments.