Carolina Hurricanes (9-18-4) at Toronto Maple Leafs (15-11-3)
7:00 p.m., Air Canada Centre
TV: FS-Carolinas, SportsNet-Ontario
One phrase people love to throw around when things get tough is "at least it can't get any worse." Well, for the Carolina Hurricanes it can. We have one of the worst records in the NHL, injuries all over our defense, an ineffective powerplay and most of our losses have been by at least three goals. It was after the Winnipeg game that I said "Hey, at least things can't get worse." What happens after that? Jeff Skinner misses another with what is being described as an "undisclosed injury" and I'm hearing that it could be a concussion. So no, I don't want to hear that "things can't get worse" because when you have that mindset, they do get worse. Or maybe I'm just superstitious and want this Canada road trip to end? Probably that. Anyway, the good news is that this is the last game of the road trip and the Canes are taking on a team they beat a month ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Lines, analysis & more after the jump
Lines (taken from James Mirtle)
Dwyer - Staal - Tlusty
Ponikarovsky - Ruutu - Jokinen
LaRose - Sutter - Nodl
Stewart - Brent - Bowman
Gleason - McBain
Faulk - Spacek
Allen - Joslin
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
Macarthur - Grabovski - Kulemin
Frattin - Connolly - Armstrong
Steckel - Dupuis - Crabb
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Schenn
Liles - Franson
What happened last time?
Carolina had one of their best performances of the season against the Leafs back in November but their forward corps was pretty banged up. Mikhail Graboski and Clarke Macarthur are back tonight and that boosts their forward depth quite a bit as they have two pretty legit scoring lines. Grabovski and Macarthur are both studs when it comes to territorial play, too. The big difference that everyone is going to be talking about will be in net as James Reimer will get the start tonight instead of AHL goalie Ben Scrievens. Scrievens played well in their last meeting but Reimer is more capable at stealing a game for the Leafs.
Carolina's lineup is pretty different tonight, as well but it's more in the sense of the forwards being shuffled around and not having Skinner in the lineup.
- I have to wonder how long of a leash Cam Ward has tonight because he was chased in two games last week and has not been good at all this year. With the news of Justin Peters being placed on re-entry waivers, I have to think that Brian Boucher's injury is serious and they want Peters on the big club. Although, I'm not sure what Mike Murphy has done to not earn a start because it would make sense to let him play one game while he's up and Ward's struggling. Unless they see Boucher out long-term and want Murphy back in Charlotte to help the Checkers.
- Toronto's got a superior record but they are only a slightly better team than Carolina territorially, which is something that advanced stat gurus have been chirping about all year. Toronto's had a lot more bounces go in their favor and that's especially true for Joffrey Lupul who has 13 goals and 33 points despite having a 45% corsi rate. Sometimes it's all about the percentages and that first line for Toronto's has seen a ton of benefit from them so far.
- Jaroslav Spacek had a great debut game against Winnipeg and I'm hoping this develops into something consistent. Some people call the time frame after a player is traded to another team "the honeymoon period" because there are players who seem to do better after a "change of scenery." It's happening now with both Spacek and Tomas Kaberle....but let's remember that it's only one game.
- You know who hasn't scored in awhile? Jussi Jokinen. The last time he netted a goal was against these same Leafs a month ago and the puck only glanced off his foot. With a depleted second line, can get get number five on the year?
- As for the lines, Kirk Muller did not run them during practice so I have no idea if the ones posted above are correct. Honestly, we might as well have something like "Muller's Lineup Generator" where we throw every forward's name into a hat and we randomly select the lines like that. It probably would end up being somewhat accurate after the last couple of games. We could see something like Drayson Bowman on the first line tonight at this rate.
- Speaking of Bowman, during his time with Carolina last year, he was one of the team's better players at creating chances but failed to score a goal. He's getting another look now and here's hoping that he makest he most of it.
- Gleason and McBain are going to get the tough matchups again from the looks of it and they have a daunting task of shutting down Phil Kessel's line. They aren't that lethal possession-wise but Kessel and Lupul can both finish off plays well and have gotten to many teams this year.
- The Leafs shutdown pair is either Gardiner-Schenn or Phaneuf-Gunnarsson and they are probably going to be on Staal's line regardless of who the linemates are. No Skinner hurts our forward depth a ton.
- Predicting that Jiri Tlusty scores the first goal again tonight. Yes, that's a complete shot in the dark with no stats to back it up. I'm allowed to do that sometimes.
Enjoy the game