The Florida Panthers play the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, in their last game before the Olympic break. After falling to the Detroit Red Wings the night before, the Panthers look to bounce back against their former divisional foe.
Carolina Hurricanes – The Rundown
The Carolina Hurricanes won the only meeting so far against the Panthers, a 3-2 contest. They currently have a record of 25-21-9, with 59 points – good for sixth in the Metropolitan division which puts them outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
They are led by who they have been for it seems like forever now, captain Eric Staal – who leads the team in points and assist. Jeff Skinner is one of the emerging goal scorers in the league, as he has 23-goals but has missed time this year due to an injury.
Jamie McBain was thought to be one of the Hurricanes top defensive prospects and would play the blue line for years to come. His contribution to the organization will be whatever Andrej Sekera brings to the team from now on, as they were swapped at the draft this past summer.
So far it is paying dividends for the ‘Canes, as Sekera is third on the team in points. With the Hurricanes trying to ease franchise goaltender back into game action, they have been playing with a three headed monster in net, with Ward, Anton Knudobin, and Justin Peters. Knudobin will get the nod in net tonight.
Anton Knudobin vs Scott Clemmensen (probable)
With Tim Thomas playing last night against the Red Wings, but with no confirmation yet, we might see Scott Clemmensen for the first time since his disaster of a start against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the team off for two weeks for the Olympics, it is plausible that Thomas starts again – but with a high work load last night I wouldn’t bet on it.
Neither have great career numbers against the Hurricanes. Both have a losing record, but Thomas would be the guy to start as his numbers are slightly better.
Career versus Carolina
Khudobin had a breakout year season last year as Tuukka Rask’s backup and has translated that over to Carolina. He leads the team in wins, goals against average, and save percentage, despite missing time to injury.
Players to Watch – Carolina
Playing in the same division for so long, the Panthers have seen a lot of Eric Staal, with the Carolina captain playing in 58-career games against Florida. In those games, he has registered 44 points (17 G, 27 A). Look to him to use his big body to cause havoc for whoever is in net and the Panthers’ defenders.
Nathan Gerbe is looking to be one of the smartest buys in the offseason by any team. At 5’5 it would be easy to overlook him, but make no mistake about the impact he has made for the Hurricanes this season.
Gerbe sits fourth on the team in scoring, after being a compliance buyout for the Buffalo Sabres last year. He has also been a big contributor to the power, as his three goals with a man advantage is tied for second most on the team.
Players to Watch – Florida
If there is one team that can wake Jonathan Huberdeau out of his slump, it is the Hurricanes. In his brief career, Huberdeau has owned Carolina, scoring more points against them than any other team he has faced. In five games, Huberdeau has scored three goals and four assists good for seven points.
It has been a rough season so far for him; maybe a goal going into the Olympic break is what he needs.
Brian Campbell is another player who has had success against the Hurricanes, scoring 17 points in 32 games and is a plus-13 while averaging 22:33 of ice time a game. If he and Dmitry Kulikov activate like they did against the Maple Leafs, it could give the Hurricanes defense fits.
Anthony Murphy is the Editor at The Rat Trick. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.