Not to put any undue pressure on the Carolina Hurricanes, but we all know the game tonight against the Southeast Division leading Florida Panthers is a must win for the Canes. Lucky for the Hurricanes, they are catching the Panthers on a down swing. Florida has lost 4 of 5 games this month, two of which were shutouts. If Cam Ward is in net tonight and is as on point as he was against the Tampa Bay Lightning, this could be a real possibility for the Canes.
The Canes are playing the second of a back-to-back, and are coming straight off a 4-2 win over the Lightning. The Panthers got a day of rest after a shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday.
The line to watch again tonight will be Skinner-Jokinen-LaRose. Jeff Skinner is on a three-game point streak that includes two goals against the Lightning. Each member of the line contributed either a goal or an assist in the match against Tampa Bay. After a slow-build following his concussion, Skinner is on fire once again. This could make a huge difference not only tonight against the Panthers, but also on the narrow road to the playoffs. Also of note, the chemistry was immediate when Chad LaRose was added to the line.
Acquiring Wojtek Wolski from the New York Rangers has been a benefit for the Panthers, as the winger has contributed two goals and two helpers in his 9 games with the Panthers. The Panthers have four players on the IR currently.
Tuomo Ruutu was back in the lineup last night and delivered some big hits to the Bolts. His physicality will be needed again tonight with Eric Staal sick and Jiri Tlusty out with an upper body injury. With Tlusty out after a hit from last night Steven Stamkos, chances are Derek Joslin or Drayson Bowman will come into play again tonight. Although according the Canes official website Bowman could still be dealing with illness.
Florida has prevailed over the Canes at home more often, going 8-2-2 against the Canes since December 2007. But as Coach Kirk Muller pointed out, the Hurricanes are slowly creeping up in the standings. The Canes road game has also shown marked improvement in the last month, but the back-to-back could trip them up. But also remember, the last game against the Panthers in Raleigh was decided by only one goal. Let’s hope the short trip to the other Florida coast didn’t tire the team out too much.
This is the fourth of six meetings between the Panthers and the Hurricanes this season and the Cats have prevailed in all three previous games.
Hope you all sprung forward this morning so you don’t miss what will hopefully be a Hurricanes sweep of Florida. Let’s Go Canes!
Tune in at 5:00pm tonight to Fox Sports Carolina or 99.9 FM The Fan.
Check out our sister site, The Rat Trick, for all your Panthers info.
Will Skinner be a winner again tonight? Are you as tired of hearing about Florida teams as I am writing about them? Come chat with us us on Facebook and Twitter: @CardiacCaneFS, @Esbee92, @peacelovepuck, @caniaccaz and @caniac176.