Game Day Preview: Hurricanes vs. Panthers

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VS.

Tonight the Florida Panthers host Southeast Division rivals the Carolina Hurricanes and “The Bank”.  The Hurricanes bring with them a 9 game losing streak and will be playing the Panthers without star forward Eric Staal who is out with an upper body injury.  The Canes have a 2-8-3 record for their worst start in franchise history, and have been outscored 16-4 in their last three games.  The last victory for Carolina was against the Florida Panthers back on October 9th in Carolina.

Jussi Jokinen and ex-Panther Ray Whitney lead the Canes in scoring with 8 points each, but are -5 and -4 respectively.  In addition Rod Brind’Amour is a -9 and has only 2 goals in 13 games.  This team is clearly holding their sticks too tight as the saying goes.  Goaltender Cam Ward is sporting a 3.07 GAA and a .900 save percentage.  Another player that is struggling is Chad LaRose who has no goals so far this season.  In last seasons playoffs LaRose made a name for himself with 4 goals and 7 assists for the Hurricanes and was being looked at as a player who would improve on the 19 he scored during the regular season last year.

The Canes always give the Panthers a hard time no matter what stage of the season it is.  For some reason the Panthers seem to struggle against this team and you can probably bet that it’s going to be another tough battle tonight as well.  Look for alot of hitting, alot of speed, and even some diving to get Carolina’s fortunes turned around.  Free agent forward Greek Lightning will be looking to create a spark with his spunky play.  He may not do alot of things that show up on the scoreboard, but he brings his lunch pail every game, and isn’t afraid to mix things up.  I have seen him take on Zdeno Chara, even though there’s a 7 inch height difference.  Guarantee you that if he was on the Panthers, he would have made a response to Mike Richards.

The Panthers are going to be going for their third victory in a row and have been off since last Saturday when the shutout St. Louis on the road by a 4-0 score.   The Panthers will be without forwards Dominic Moore who is still out after facial surgery, Radek Dvorak and David Booth, both of whom were hurt in the Flyers game almost two weeks ago.  An exact timetable for their returns are not yet known, but both of these players are much needed in spite of the recent winning streak.  Expect them both to be out another 2 weeks at least.

Florida is boasting a new and successful line made up by Steven Reinprecht, Cory Stillman and Lazy Ass who has actually been playing better as of late.  Would like to see this trio continue this pace and become the number one line.  Look for Tomas Vokoun to get the call in goal.  While I can’t confirm that, he deserves it after his shutting out of St. Louis on Saturday night, and I am sure that he wants to redeem himself after being replaced the last time the Cats played Carolina.

This is a game that worries me.  While Florida was played confidently in it’s last game and hung around long enough to beat Dallas in the shootout the night before, the Canes have some sort of evil spell on the Panthers.  Coming in on the heels of a 9 game losing streak is no reason to be taken lightly.  I fully expect head coach Peter DeBoer to get his troops ready for this one and come out on fire.  Something that is not a common theme around here.  The boys have had a few days off, and should be eager to go.  I’m not goiong to buy any B.S. about finding their legs for the first period.  Be prepared, because the Hurricanes are going to be an ornery bunch and we better answer the call.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers