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Canes, Thrashers Begin Intense Miniseries

Saturday, 03.27.2010 / 11:49 AM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
Whether you believe the Hurricanes are still in the fight or not, there’s no question that their next two games against Atlanta will have a big impact in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Paul Branecky
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The Thrashers are just two points behind Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot, with the New York Rangers barely in the rearview mirror. Carolina currently sits in 13th place, seven points behind the Bruins.

While Carolina will have to win every game regardless of who they play in the season’s last eight games, Atlanta presents a stiff test because the games are no less important to them.

”They should be the most intense games (left on the schedule), I think we’ll see that,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. “There should be some banging and a lot of fighting for pucks, and the team that gets up to pace as quick as it can is going to win the game.”

The Hurricanes will be looking to carry over the momentum of their recent shootout win over Washington, which marked the second time they had beaten the league-leading Capitals in one week. They’ve also bested the fourth-place Pittsburgh Penguins twice in March, although Maurice said he’s been more concerned about how his team plays against more workmanlike, gritty teams.

”Scratch and claw,” he said. “That is the National Hockey League in a nutshell, because beating Washington gives you no rights over the next game, especially when you get to teams that are just going to fight you right until the end. That’s a real important mental part of this game. It’s going to be a grind.”

Cam Ward will make his return to the lineup tonight, although he will start the game backing up Manny Legace. Ward is expected to start in the second half of the home-and-home series in Atlanta on Monday.

The Thrashers have had an interesting go of it since the Olympic Break. A relatively easy 4-0 Carolina win in Atlanta on March 7 was the second of a five-game losing streak for the Thrashers, who then seemingly fell out of playoff contention. However, they followed that up by earning points in six of their next seven games, including a four-game winning streak.

Still, they’ve been disappointed by flat performances at home in their last two games, a critical loss to the Bruins on Tuesday and an overtime defeat to Toronto on Thursday, which led coach John Anderson to call a closed-door meeting about the team’s intensity level.

That’s usually a recipe for a fiery performance in the following game. With so much on the line anyway, tonight’s match-up should live up to Maurice’s expectations.


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STANDINGS

[SSS_STANDINGS.METROPOLITAN_DIVISION_LABEL]
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
2 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
3 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
4 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
5 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
6 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
7 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
8 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 79 21 40 -13 61
J. Skinner 71 33 21 -14 54
A. Sekera 74 11 33 4 44
A. Semin 65 22 20 1 42
J. Staal 82 15 25 2 40
J. Faulk 76 5 27 -9 32
N. Gerbe 81 16 15 -6 31
J. Tlusty 68 16 14 2 30
R. Nash 73 10 14 0 24
P. Dwyer 75 8 14 -2 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 19 14 1 .926 2.30
C. Ward 10 12 6 .898 3.06
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