HURRICANES (30-30-9) AT BLACKHAWKS (40-15-15)
TV: FS-CR, CSN-CH
Last 10: Carolina 4-6-0; Chicago 5-4-1
Season series: This is the second of two games between the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago won 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 15 at PNC Arena.
Big story: Chicago got a big 4-0 victory against the League's top team, the St. Louis Blues, on Wednesday at United Center. However, the Blackhawks also lost their leading scorer, right wing Patrick Kane, for three weeks with a lower-body injury. Carolina is realistically out of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, but ended a two-game losing skid Tuesday by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 at Nationwide Arena, paced by goalie Anton Khudobin's 46 saves.
Hurricanes: It looks like the impassioned speech coach Kirk Muller gave his team following practice Monday worked. Upset about back-to-back losses to the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers this past weekend, which made the Hurricanes 3-8-0 since returning from the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Muller vented.
The Hurricanes responded by making a 3-0 lead stand up against the Blue Jackets despite being outshot 19-0 in the third period. They won on the road for just the second time in nine games away from PNC Arena, dating to Jan. 28 in Montreal, and started a three-game road trip on the right foot.
"It was a gutsy effort for us to just kind of grind it out and find a way to get two points on the road," he said. "We feel that if we can just play our game and get everyone healthy again, we can string some wins together. Don't count us out yet. There's still some fight in the guys and [Tuesday] night was a good example."
Carolina agreed to terms on a two year entry-level contract with 22-year old defenseman Dennis Robertson, who recently finished a four-year career at Brown University. The Hurricanes acquired Robertson's rights along with defenseman John-Michael Liles from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Tim Gleason in a Jan.1 trade.
Blackhawks: The victory against the Blues was a nice ego boost, but the two points earned were bigger. Chicago (95 points) pulled ahead of the Colorado Avalanche by a point into second place of the Central Division.
Losing Kane is quite a blow, but if there's any team in the NHL equipped to absorb such a loss, it's the Blackhawks.
"Guys need to step up," said forward Ben Smith, whose ice time could increase. "Whoever that is, whoever's playing those roles, will contribute. We're never going to make up for guys like [Brandon] Saad and [Kane], but guys will have to step up and play some big minutes."
Who's hot: Center Andrei Loktionov recorded his first points for the Hurricanes since being traded March 5 by the New Jersey Devils, scoring a goal and assisting on another in the victory against the Blue Jackets. ... Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in the past nine games. Smith has scored two goals with one assist in the past three contests.
Injury report: Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen (heel) is out for the season and fellow defenseman Liles (concussion) has missed six games. Forward Jiri Tlusty (lower body) is day-to-day after missing the game against Columbus and defenseman Ryan Murphy was knocked out of the game against the Blue Jackets early with an upper-body injury. ... Kane (lower body) is the Blackhawks' most significant injury; he may miss the rest of the regular season. In addition, Chicago has been playing without forward Brandon Saad (upper body) and defenseman Michal Rozsival (lower body). Saad, who has missed Chicago's past two games, might be ready to return against Carolina.
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