Halloween in Raleigh was a soggy affair as it poured cold rain on all of the trick-or-treaters last night. Today we have blue skies and plenty of sunshine in Raleigh, but stormy weather is on the horizon as the Tampa Bay Lightning is in town to meet our Carolina Hurricanes. It seems like the Bolts were just here, although I have tried to wipe our 5-1 loss in the season opener on October 7th from my mind. I think fans are looking more for a solid performance from the team rather than worrying about avenging that particular loss against the Bolts.
The Bolts (4-4-2) are coming in on the heels of a 1-0 shutout over the Winnipeg Jets at home last Saturday and are sitting in third place in the Southeast Division behind, who woulda thunk it, the Florida Panthers. The Canes (4-4-3) sit one point behind the Bolts in fourth. The Hurricanes are trying to put the 5-1 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday in the rear view mirror and start a home winning streak with this, the first of three home games.
Lightning left winger Ryan Malone is sitting out the contest with an upper body injury and is day to day. They are also without blueliner Mattias Ohlund who has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Zac Dalpe is not quite ready to return for the Canes from his lower body concern so Zach Boychuk is still in Raleigh filling his position on the fourth line. Derek Joslin is a healthy scratch.
The Hurricanes practiced Tuesday morning and are reportedly rolling the same line combinations we have seen in the last couple of games. For the forwards:
Jiri Tlusty / Eric Staal /Chad LaRose
Jeff Skinner / Jussi Jokinen / Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky / Brandon Sutter / Patrick Dwyer
Zach Boychuk / Tim Brent / Anthony Stewart
Defensive pairings are still:
Bryan Allen / Tim Gleason
Joni Pitkanen /Jamie McBain
Tomas Kaberle / Jay Harrison
Captain Eric Staal usually is atop of the leaderboard for the Canes in points and goals. Unfortunately he is the leader with the biggest negative numbers in the +/- column with -13. Sophomore skater Jeff Skinner continues to lead the club in goals (4), helpers (6) and points (10). Skinny can’t carry the weight alone though. Jussi Jokinen is right behind him, but the team needs Eric Staal to show up. I tweeted it last week and I will say it here. I believe Eric Staal is Eric Staal’s biggest enemy. A drop in performance gets inside his head and he becomes more frustrated. Let’s hope he can get over this mental hurdle and break the drought.
With the exception of Malone, the usual suspects in scoring will be on the ice for the Bolts; Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny LeCavalier. With skaters like these three the Canes defense cannot afford to make any mistakes.
Not so old but reliable Cam Ward will be between the pipes while Tampa is starting veteran Dwayne Roloson.
Halloween is over, and it’s time to drop the costumes. Which Hurricanes will show up tonight? The fiery fellas that shut out the Blackhawks? The team excelling in hockey smarts that kept their collective calm against the bullying Bruins? Or the team that played a solid forty minutes with twenty full of defensive mishaps that lead to the 5-1 loss to the Flyers?
Let’s hope tonight is the beginning of some consistency of the positive kind. Let’s go Canes!
(Update: At puck drop Ryan Malone is in the lineup tonight for Tampa Bay.)
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Topics: Cam Ward, Dwayne Roloson, Eric Staal, Florida Panthers, Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen, Martin St. Louis, Philadelphia Flyers, Ryan Malone, Southeast Division, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vincent Lecavalier, Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk