The Hurricanes meet the New York Islanders tonight for the first time this season for a “Battle in the Basement” of the Eastern Conference. When the new conference realignment kicks in next season, we will face the Isles six times instead of four. It’s never too early to start dominating a rivalry. The teams are tied for last place with thirty two points each, but the Islanders have four games in hand over the Hurricanes. Look! I have graphics to prove it!
So we’re thirty points behind the Rangers who sit atop the conference with fifty-two. Details, details. Right now I am taking every faceoff, puck battle and save as an opportunity to collect small victories.
Eric Staal has finally climbed to the top of the heap in points for the team with twenty-five. He only has nine goals but has sixteen assists. The captain had fire in his eyes in the Toronto game and fans hope to see it continue to burn. Our tireless gladiator, Tuomo Ruutu, still leads the club in goals scored with fourteen. I would love to see Zac Dalpe get a hot stick on his call up. He collected a goal and an assist against the Maple Leafs. (Yes I am trying to pretend that 5-2 loss on New Year’s Eve against the Lightning didn’t happen.) The Isles rang in the new year handily beating the Oilers 4-1.
In the battered, bruised and broken department the Canes are still short backup netminder Brian Boucher who is in on injured reserve. Jeff Skinner is still out with a concussion but he did practice with the team for the first time since the injury on Monday in a yellow no-contact (aka DON’T TOUCH ME!) jersey. Patrick Dwyer, who also injured something above the waist, was seen at practice this morning sporting yellow as well. There is no timetable for the return of defenseman Joni Pitkanen who has been absent with what was reported to be a concussion. As this preview was being written though, Jim Rutherford announced that #25 underwent knee surgery today. Regardless of his injury, he won’t be playing tonight and is looking at a four-week recovery time for the surgery. We will bring you more of “Joni’s Medical Mystery Theater” as information becomes available.
Cam Ward will be minding the store for the Hurricanes tonight. The Isles are digging into their reserves for netminders as Al Montoya is still out with a concussion and Rick DiPietro is out with a groin injury. Evgeni Nabokov will be keeping the net.
There are no reported changes to the Canes’ lineup from the last contest.
Tlusty / Staal / Dalpe
Ruutu / Jokinen / Ponikarovsky
Bowman / Sutter / LaRose
Stewart / Brent / Nödl (Who is still not NOODLE)
Gleason / McBain
Harrison / Faulk
Allen / Spacek
The Islanders will be featuring two of their leading scorers on the top line in Matt Moulson and John Tavares. Tavares, the twenty-one years young alternate captain, is tied for second in scoring with thirty-one points, thirteen goals and eighteen helpers. Mouslon shares the spot with him with seventeen goals and fourteen assists. P.A. Parenteau leads the team in points. I would like to thank Matt Moulson for waiting until it is time to face my team to start earning me fantasy points. I am shaking a virtual fist at him.
From the Isles official website, here are their depth charts and prospective lines.
Moulson / Tavares / Okposo
Rolston / Nielsen / Parenteau
Grabner / Bailey / Martin
Niederreiter / Reasoner / Wallace
MacDonald / Hamonic
Eaton / Staios
Keys to the game? I am just going to go with that flash of brilliance I came up with last time; “Put pucks in the net.” Oh and stop those other guys from putting pucks in the net. Come on, come on, come on…Let’s Go Canes! Let’s play like we are not cellar-dwellers and beat the Isles!
For your Islander needs, should you have them, stop by Eye on Isles on the FanSided network. The official website has a nice game preview as well. Please note the game is NOT being covered by local television tonight.
Predictions for the game? Thoughts on Coach Capuano’s hair? Leave us a comment! Thanks for stopping by. Follow us on Facebook at CardiacCane and follow our writers on the Twitter machine at @CardiacCaneFS, @Esbee92, @peacelovepuck and @caniac176