There’s no place like home. These are the words I imagine the Hurricanes (3-3-2) were uttering as they came back into town off a four-game road trip, unfortunately dropping the last two games of the series to St. Louis and Winnipeg. Ottawa (3-5) has come into Raleigh with back to back wins against the same two opponents. Will they continue on their winning streak or will the Canes be hungry enough to grab a win tonight?
The game also marks the return of forward Zach Boychuk to the big club from the AHL Checkers. This will be Boychuk’s 57th career game as a Hurricane and he has 121 AHL contests under his belt. The other Zac, Dalpe, is still on the injured reserve list with a lower body concern. While Brett Sutter was brought up from the Checkers to lend a hand in Dalpe’s absence, Boychuk will likely be anchoring the other end of the Sutter/Brent line as Anthony Stewart has been held out of practice with, you guessed it, a lower-body injury. Justin Faulk, recently called up from the Checkers and Derek Joslin are healthy scratches for the Canes and will be watching from the press box.
On the other side of the injury coin, the Senators will be without their captain Daniel Alfredsson who has a sore hip flexor. The 38 year-old winger has three goals and two assists on the season and will be missed in the lineup. Peter Regin and Bobby Butler are also sitting out the contest.
Milan Michalek leads the Sens in goals with six. He follows center Jason Spezza, the team leader, in points with ten. Spezza has four goals on the season and has seven helpers to his credit. If you have been hearing a buzz about Spezza, I would not be surprised. He is currently third in the NHL in points following Daniel Sedin and, wait for it, Phil Kessell of the Leafs. The Canes would like to do everything in their power to keep Spezza from rising up in those stats.
Normally I would enjoy getting a peek at the entry level draft players who generated a buzz this season including Mika Zibanejad. This will probably be his last contest before being returned to the minors. I say no need to shine tonight young man! The Canes need a win. Feel free to leave your best work back in Ottawa.
What are the Canes keys to the game? I see no need to rehash the same things every preview, but I have to give you something. Coach Maurice is once again shuffling the lines and had Ponikarovsky, Staal and Ruutu together in practice. I don’t know if this is the official first line for the evening, but the combination of the “right” top line has been elusive and continues to be a challenge. The second key? You know it. I know it. The players know it. Stay out of the box!
The puck drops at 7pm. Let’s hope the view in the arena doesn’t feature our boys in the sin bin. Don’t forget it’s also Hockey Fights Cancer night. For more information including how to bid on baskets to raise money for the cause, stop by the Hurricanes Official Site.
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Tags: AHL Alexei Ponikarovsky Anthony Stewart Brett Sutter Charlotte Checkers Daniel Afredsson Derek Joslin Eric Staal Jason Spezza Justin Faulk Ottawa Senators Tim Brent Tuomo Ruutu Zac Dalpe Zach Boychuk