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The 2010-2011 NHL season begins today with the Hurricanes taking on the Minnesota Wild in Finland. As everyone already knows the Hurricanes have gone young this off-season. Today we will see if the rookies, such as Jeff Skinner, are up to speed and truly ready to be at the NHL level. If the Hurricanes are to be successful in these first two games in Finland they will have to rely on young talent and established players such as Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter, Tim Gleason, and Joe Corvo. The Hurricanes are seen as a long shot to make the playoffs and I believe realistically that is probally true. However, if they have any shot they can not start off in a hole like last season. The Hurricanes were one of the best teams in the league at the end of last season, but could not over come a 14 game winless streak and missed the playoffs.
The Minnesota Wild come off a season that also saw them finish in the bottom of the Western Conference. Just like their opponents in Helsinki, the Wild are coming off a forgettable first season under coach Todd Richards. They started slow and never really got going last season en route to a 13th-place finish in the Western Conference. This preseason hasn’t been kind either, as the Wild went 0-6 in their North American schedule before finally winning a game Monday night against Ilves Tampere for Finland’s SM-Liiga. Like Cam Ward, Minnesota’s goalie Nickolas Backstrom will look to return to form as he also had a forgetable 2009-2010 season with defenseman. During this NHL premeire we will also get to see the return of an old friend in Matt Cullen. Cullen was traded at the deadline last season to Ottawa before signing a free agent deal with his hometown team Minnesota.
The match-up is a pretty even one and I would not be surprised if the team’s split the two games, but the defining point will be goal-tending. If Ward plays to ability the Hurricanes could leave Helsinki 2-0 or if Backstrom plays to his ability Minnesota could be 2-0. It will be an intersting match-up and I can’t wait for the puck to drop.
CAR Joe Corvo Lower-Body (Probable)
MIN Marek Zidlicky Lower-Body (Hopeful)
CAR 3 MIN 2 F/OT