For their final game of the 2011-12 series, the Carolina Hurricanes will take on the playoff bound Florida Panthers. After a disappointing loss to the New Jersey Devils one week ago, the Canes coaching staff and players promised a better outcome for the last three games of the season. So far, the Hurricanes have delivered and earned themselves four points this week with wins over the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens.
The last meeting between the Canes and the Panthers on March 21 marked the return of Joni Pitkanen and a win, giving the Canes the longest winning streak of the season at four games. The season series between these two teams favors the Panthers 4-1. The Panthers are heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2000 this year, and would like to take the division title with them as well. They only need one more point, or a loss from Washington to hang that banner in the BankAtlantic Center. The Cats are coming off a Thursday night loss (4-2) to the Caps.
Late Thursday night, Caniac Nation got some interesting news. The Hurricanes had signed Union College Forward Jeremy Welsh, who was in Tampa after losing to Ferris State in the Frozen Four. Another surprise, Welsh would join the team for their Saturday game against the Panthers. The 23-year-old has signed a one-year entry level contract with the Canes. Welsh led Union with 27 goals this season and was also fourth in the NCAA. It will undoubtedly be an exciting night for Welsh and the Caniacs who are anxious to see what this new addition will add to the team. Welsh will wear 23 for the Canes tonight and will be centering Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu on the second line. (According to Chip Alexander from Raleigh’s News & Observer).
Also per Alexander, Patrick Dwyer will not make the trip for personal reasons, Andreas Nodl will be back on the Sutter line, with Jussi Jokinen moving to play wing on the checking line. Jaro Spacek is expected to sit tonight.
View the updated lines here.
Panthers Tomas Fleischmann is on a hot streak with five points in his last five games. D-Man Brian Campbell recently recorded his 49th assist of the season, which tied a Panthers franchise record for most assists by a defense man in a season.
The Canes Chad LaRose tied his season high 19 goals last game, and will likely be itching to break that record with a 20th goal tonight.
Keys to the Game:
-Stop the parade to the penalty box. The Canes took seven penalties in their last game, but luckily were perfect on the penalty kill. They might not get so lucky tonight, so will need to watch the sloppy stick infractions especially.
-Capitalize on the power play. The only regulation goal scored in the last game by the Canes was on the power play. However, the Canes had several opportunities and could not take advantage.
It’s the last game of the season Caniacs, so let’s enjoy it. Tune in to Fox Sports Carolina or 99.9 FM tonight at 7:30pm.
Check out our sister site, The Rat Trick, for all your Panthers info.