The Florida Panthers are in town to face the Carolina Hurricanes tonight for their first game in the RBC since Coach Kirk Muller’s first night on the job. To say this match up against the Panthers is important is an understatement. As Jay Harrison said in the locker room after the overtime loss to Anaheim on
Thursday, the playoffs are a carrot that is not just dangling in front of the team, they can taste it. Though the Canes gained a point from the match up with the Ducks, they will need to take two points in regulation against the upcoming run of Eastern Conference teams in order to take a bite out of the carrot. Ironically, the Panthers also lost their last game, against the Minnesota Wild, in a shootout. This meeting of the Canes and Panthers will be the third of a six game series this season, with the Panthers topping the Canes in both previous meetings.
The Panthers are visiting Raleigh with a four game winless streak on their backs. They will be looking to take back control of the lead in the Southeast Division. The hot players for the Panthers right now include center Stephen Weiss who has four points in the last six games. Newly acquired C Jerred Smithson (from the Nashville Predators) should play his first game for the team tonight wearing number 25. Also traveling with the team is former Charlotte Checkers C Jonathan Matsumoto, who is making his first Panthers appearance after being acquired in a trade in January. The Panthers are also dealing with a plethora of injuries.
As of now, the Canes goalie situation is still the foremost on people’s minds. Justin Peters has had a
phenomenal showing in the last three games for the Canes, and Mike Murphy has been called up from the Charlotte Checkers as back up. Peters will make his third straight start for the Canes. Coach Muller said Cam Ward is progressing well and it’s just all about being cautious for now. Back up Brian Boucher is still about a week away from seeing any net time.
Though the game against Anaheim was officially a loss, the team looked sharp. Peters made 35 saves and performed well in the shootout. Jiri Tlusty is still riding a point streak which has now extended to 9 games. Captain Eric Staal is not far behind with seven game point streak. With Chad LaRose and Tuomo Ruutu
still out with Upper Body injuries, the Canes will look once again to Jerome Samson and Drayson Bowman to fill out the first and second lines. And speaking of lines for the Hurricanes, they look very similar to the middle of the last game.
To say the Canes have progressed since the first game against the Panthers under Muller is an understatement. They’ve remained positive and still are showing fight. And I’m guessing they’ve all got a pretty big appetite for that carrot. Let’s go Canes!
There is no television broadcast on Fox Sports South tonight. Tune in to 99.9 FM tonight at 7pm for the radio broadcast.
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