If there ever was a thing called a “must win” game, the game tonight between the Carolina Hurricanes (6-10-3) and the visiting Buffalo Sabres (11-7-0) might be it. Not only to get a good feeling in the locker room, but to potentially save head coach Paul Maurice’s job and to keep players off of the trading block. After coming off of an embarrassing loss on Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadians, where the Hurricanes easily gave Carey Price his first shutout of the season, the Canes look to put forth a better effort against a challenging Sabres team. This is the second of four meetings between the two rivals, with Carolina winning 4-3 up in Buffalo on October 14th. Jeff Skinner had the game winning goal on the power play with 1:24 left in regulation time. To read up on tonight’s opponent, head on over to Sabre Noise.
The Hurricanes are struggling, to put it mildly. They have given up the most goals on the season (67) and are trailing only the Columbus Blue Jackets in goal differential (Canes have a -21, while the Blue Jackets are a -26). On top of that, they have lost 6 out of their last 7, with the only win coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Saturday. Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal has admitted to his struggling start saying that this season so far has been the lowest point in his career. He has only 8 points in 19 games, with that whole +/- thing … we won’t get into that. General Manager Jim Rutherford made some line-up changes yesterday, sending forward Zac Dalpe back down to Charlotte and bringing up defenseman Justin Faulk. Dalpe has played 9 games with the Hurricanes this season, registering zero points, four shots on goal, a -1 rating and 6:07 TOI per game. Justin Faulk has played in 3 games with the Canes, registering zero points, three shots on goal and a -6 rating. While he was down with the Checkers, he played 12 games with 6 points (2 G, 4 A) and had a -3 rating.
The Sabres will be without goaltender Ryan Miller tonight after he sustained a concussion at the hands of Boston Bruins‘ forward Milan Lucic. They will also be without forward Tyler Myers, who has an ankle injury. Both are out indefinitely. Jochen Hecht has been out and will continue to be on injured reserve with a concussion. Sabres alternate captain Tomas Vanek and captain Jason Pominville look to add onto their current five-game points streak. Vanek and Pominville both have 7 points in their five-game streak and are currently first and second, respectively, in Buffalo scoring. Buffalo is 6-4-0 in their last 10, including a 5-3 loss to New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night after Jhonas Enroth was pulled after allowing 5 goals on only 19 shots. I would expect Enroth to get the start in goal tonight against the Canes.
There were some juggling of lines during practice yesterday, with Anthony Stewart apparently coming off of being scratched for the last couple of games, and will be inserted into the line-up on Eric Staal’s line. Expect these lines for tonight’s game:
LaRose – Staal – Stewart
Skinner – Jokinen – Ruutu
Dwyer – Sutter – Ponikarovsky
Boychuk – Brent – Tlusty
No defensive pairings have been mentioned yet with Justin Faulk being brought up. He might play, or they could keep him as a healthy scratch again. Cam Ward will get the start in goal.
UPDATE: Derek Joslin will be the healthy scratch as Justin Faulk will be inserted into the line-up. In a head-scratching move, Brian Boucher will get the start in net tonight. Boucher has had some history against the Sabres when he played in Philadelphia. I’m assuming this is the reasoning for having him start tonight.
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