The Carolina Hurricanes (10-18-6) welcome back another couple of old friends to the RBC Center as Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata and the Phoenix Coyotes (17-13-3) square off against the Canes tonight. Whitney, 39, signed a 2-year contract with the Coyotes at the end of the 2010 season, leaving the Canes after playing with the club for 5 seasons and winning a Stanley Cup in 2006. “The Wizard” is the Coyotes’ leading scorer so far this season, registering 30 points (11G, 19A) in 33 games with the club. He is 1 point ahead of Radim Vrbata, also a former Hurricane, who played with the team for parts of 3 seasons.
The Coyotes are in the thick of the playoff hunt in the west, currently tied in 8th with the San Jose Sharks with 37 points (the Sharks have 3 games in hand, however). They are coming off of a 2-1 victory against the Southeast division-leading Florida Panthers last night where Whitney and Vrbata scored for the ‘Yotes (go figure!). Their starting goaltender, Mike Smith, did leave with an injury and former Charlotte Checker Justin Pogge has been recalled by the club to join the team in Raleigh tonight. No word yet as to who starts in goal, but my assumption would be current back-up Jason LaBarbera, who came in relief of Smith last night and made a huge penalty shot save to preserve the victory for the Coyotes.
The Hurricanes participated in a lively practice at the RBC Center yesterday with everyone except Brandon Sutter, who was held off of the ice due to a minor lower body injury. Head coach Kirk Muller said yesterday that he expects Sutter to play against the Coyotes tonight. Tim Brent, who was shaken up a bit in practice yesterday, will not play. The Hurricanes have recalled center Riley Nash from the Charlotte Checkers to take his place and have placed Jeff Skinner on injured reserve to make room on the roster. Nash was one of the forwards who most impressed coaches during training camp at the beginning of the year and will make his first ever NHL start for the Hurricanes tonight. Nash currently has 9 points (2G, 7A) in 31 games with the Checkers. Muller says that Chad LaRose will take Tim Brent’s spot on the power play tonight. With the recall, expect a defenseman scratched (most likely Joslin), with the remaining lineup to stay unchanged from the Florida game. Expect the forward lines as follows:
Bowman – Staal – LaRose
Ponikarovsky – Jokinen – Ruutu
Tlusty – Sutter – Dwyer
Nodl – Nash – Stewart
Make sure to check back this evening or tomorrow for a game recap! The game is not on television tonight, but can be heard on 99.9FM The Fan. The Canes are back in action on Friday against the Ottawa Senators.