Tonight the Hurricanes (32-32-16) wrap up their home season by welcoming the Montreal Canadiens (30-35-15) to the PNC Center. Let’s hope saying bienvenue is as much Southern hospitality the Hurricanes will extend to our visitors from the North. Tonight’s meeting marks the 4th time the teams have met this year with the Canes needing a win tonight to even up the series.
The last time the Caniac faithful got to see their boys on home ice they lost in a miserable 5-0 shutout to Zac Parise, Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. Thankfully a 2-1 road win in Ottawa Monday night offered redemption and faith that although the team isn’t in the playoffs, they still have that winning spirit. I am looking for the team to make a strong showing in front of the home crowd to give us hope for next season.
Early reports indicated we would see Andreas Nodl back on the ice tonight but Coach Muller reportedly spoke to him post practice and he was not 100%. I am disappointed for him but glad he is being careful with his return. And yes, someone finally uttered the dreaded “C word” in regards to his injury. We all knew he had a concussion but getting the club to say it is like pulling teeth sometimes. In anticipation of Nodl’s return, Drayson Bowman was reassigned to Charlotte on Wednesday. I am sure Bowman is disappointed, but I hope he doesn’t take this as a reflection of the value of his contributions in Raleigh. The 23 year-old has had a great run playing in the last 12 games and earning 6 points (4g, 2a). Chin up Drayson. Work hard over the summer and come into camp strong.
It looks like we will see Jaro Spacek who has been sidelined with a lower body injury. His contract status for the future is unknown, so I am going to enjoy getting to see the charming Czech take the ice again wearing Hurricanes red. His leadership, warmth and humor have been a great asset to the Hurricanes organization and he is well liked by the fans. With Bowman back in Charlotte this means the Canes are rolling 7 defensemen tonight. Michael Smith has updated the depth chart here. Expect to see the d-pairings from the Ottawa game of Faulk-Gleason, Allen-Harrison, and Pitkanen-McBain.
The Canadiens are plagued by injury, but the big story is the absence of keeper Carey Price who is out with a concussion. Peter Budaj will be in net. Cam Ward will be making the stops for the Hurricanes. I have read alternating reports about the appearance of former Cane, Tomas Kaberle, but it sounds like he may not be taking the ice.
The big story of course for the Habs is some pesky right winger called Erik Cole. Paired with Max Pacioretty, and David Desharnais on the top line, Cole has 34 goals this season. He put two on the boards last night against Tampa Bay and has even scored a natural hat trick in less than 6 minutes (yes, really) on March 23rd against the Senators.
Who do the Canes look to for scoring this evening? Of course you have to go with the standard Eric Staal answer. The captain still leads in points with 69 and has two more contests to hit a 70 point and/or a 25 goal season. I look to see Jeff Skinner step up and try to pot his 21st for the season. After being denied on shots like the one swiftly saved by Craig Anderson on Monday, I expect him to have a little extra fire and determination to spinnerama one of those bad boys into the net. Brandon Sutter had a hot stick on Monday and he netted one of the Canes’ goals as did winger Tuomo Ruutu. At this point I think the goals are truly anyone’s for the taking. And yes Chad LaRose still sits at 18 goals needing to more to get him to the 20-goal mark this season. Help a brother out guys.
Keys to the game:
- Stop the freight train known as Erik Cole! While I am a confirmed passenger on the “Cole Train,” I am a still a Caniac and that’s where my allegiance for the evening lies (Pay no attention to the name on the back of my jersey.)
- Keep your focus. While thoughts may be drifting off to summer, swimming pools and movie stars, the season isn’t over and the fans in attendance want to see 60 solid minutes of hockey. The effort will be appreciated. Both clubs are cellar dwellers. The only thing on the line is pride, which we all know is a Caniac thing.
- My personal mission for the evening is to keep from scaling the glass like a spider monkey to have words with P.K. Subban. Let’s hope Tim Gleason can take care of that for me.
How are you feeling about the last home game of the season? Leave us a comment. I am frankly feeling kind of sad. Come talk to “your people” on Facebook at CardiacCane or on Twitter:@CardiacCaneFS, @Esbee92, @peacelovepuck, @caniac176 and @CaniacCaz.