Hurricanes vs. Panthers Preview: It’s Not Staal Good

Tonight could really define the resiliency of the Hurricanes.  The Hurricanes last win came against Florida almost a month ago in a 7-2 romp.  However, the Hurricanes have taken a complete nose dive, going 0-6-3.

Florida is only one position above the Hurricanes, but has victories in their last two.  If the Hurricanes are going to end the Panthers modest two game winning streak it will take three things.  It has to start from the goal out; my feeling is Cam Ward will be much better tonight after probably his worst performance of the season against San Jose.  The next thing is the first pass out of the defensive zone, if the Hurricanes are to win the defensemen have to be quick, decisive, and make the simple pass.  The last question is who steps up in Staal’s absence, granted Staal has not been on fire, but it brings a different component with him out of the lineup.  If the Hurricanes step up in the absence of Staal they will have a good chance.  It’s that simple if these three things happen the Hurricanes should come out with a win over the Panthers tonight.

With Staal out tonight you will see a shakeup in lines.  As mentioned yesterday Jokinen will center the first line with Ruutu and Cole.  If the Hurricanes are to succeed Ruutu and Cole really have to step up.  Will the breakout of Sutter continue tonight?  Sutter will be a winger on the fourth line tonight with Yelle and Kostoplous.  The interesting thing to see is how long Maurice will stick with the lines if they do not click in the first period.

Finally the Hurricanes will get one of their top four defenseman back tonight in the form of Tim Gleason.  If Gleason can step right back in the Hurricanes have a defenseman who is much more reliable than Harrison while bringing more grit.

Prediction: Hurricanes 3 Panthers 2 OT

Notes:  The Hurricanes and Panthers split their regular season’s matchups last year at 3-3.

Staals iron man streak ends at 349

Ray Whitney returns to Florida for the first time since his 1,000 game (Ray Whitney turned his career around with the Panthers)

Injuries: CAR: Eric Staal – Upper Body Injury

CAR: Michael Ryan – Concussion

FLA:  David Booth – Concussion

FLA:  Radek Dvorak – Lower Body Injury

FLA:  Nick Tarnasky – Orbital Bone Fracture

Hope It Goes Like This Tonight

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