Tracking the Storm

Canes can Clinch Tonight

Saturday, 04.4.2009 / 11:35 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Canes can Clinch Tonight
Paul Maurice audio

One win, and they’re in.

That’s the scenario the Hurricanes are facing tonight as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the RBC Center. Thanks to Florida losing to Atlanta last night, the Canes can clinch a playoff spot with a regulation victory.

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“Back then it was how many points do you think you’re going to need, and as it closes now you know how many points you’re going to need to close out a couple of teams,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “I think both teams feel a little more excited after the results from last night’s games and can put themselves in a great position tonight.”

The Penguins aren’t likely to make anything easy for the Canes. Although Carolina is the hottest team in the NHL with seven straight victories and a franchise record 10 in a row at home, Pittsburgh (7-1-2 in their last 10) isn’t far behind. It’s a fitting collision course between two teams that have dramatically improved their chances of participating in the postseason over the last several weeks.

“Both teams tonight are in almost identical spots,” said Maurice. “They have a little bit of breathing room, but not so much that they’re feeling overly confident. At the same time, both teams have played very well for a long time now, so it will be a good, fast game tonight.”

In a game that arrived with a similar billing, the Canes defeated the streaking Ottawa Senators, who at the time were rolling like no other team in the league, 2-1 last week.

The Penguins currently trail the Canes by just one point in the standings, although Carolina has played one more game. With a win, the Hurricanes could again leapfrog Philadelphia, 8-5 winners over Toronto last night, for the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed.

Even if they do wrap up a playoff spot with games to spare, the Canes will want to keep that momentum going into the postseason, where home ice advantage could be a big boost with the way the team has been playing at the RBC Center.

“If you’re winning down the stretch, it’s a good feeling going into the playoffs,” said Eric Staal, who will go head-to-head with one of his brothers for the second straight game tonight. “For us, we’ve kind of been playing that playoff hockey for the last little while now with the tight games that we’ve won. Our goaltending has been very good, and those are all things you need in the playoffs.”

The Penguins are on the front end of an especially difficult back-to-back set (they’re game in Florida tomorrow is an early 5 p.m. start) and will start No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury tonight. This is Pittsburgh’s first road game following a franchise-record eight-game homestand.

Matt Cullen is the only player on the Hurricanes’ injury report, and he will remain out tonight. Ruslan Fedotenko, one of the Penguins’ secondary scorers behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, is probable to return from a shoulder injury he picked up in the team’s last game vs. New Jersey.

Speaking of the Penguins’ two perennial MVP candidates, Crosby has a 12-game point streak (7-13-20), while Malkin has a six-game run (4-7-11).  Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour has points in seven straight (3-7-10).

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72