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Different Roles, Same Stakes for Canes, Thrashers

Wednesday, 03.9.2011 / 12:10 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Different Roles, Same Stakes for Canes, Thrashers
Although the roles may have reversed, the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been.

Since the standings made them contenders for the same playoff spot in January, the Hurricanes and Thrashers have met three times. In those cases, Carolina was either looking to catch or create separation in a tight race between the two Southeast Division rivals.

Paul Branecky
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For tonight’s game, it’s the Thrashers who are the clear chasers as the Canes have built a six-point lead. However, the match-up will still be vital as the Canes look to leapfrog the idle Buffalo Sabres to get back above the cutoff line into eighth place and the Thrashers look to climb back into the picture by beating the teams ahead of them.

“Atlanta was the team on the calendar for an awfully long time, and then it changes pretty quickly,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. “They had a real difficult December schedule that I think hurt them with the number of games they had to play, but there’s still an awful lot of hockey. We’re certainly not looking at these guys as if they’re not in the mix. They’re right there.”

“Both teams are still out of playoff position, so we’re kind of in the same boat right now,” said Erik Cole.

Dating back to the beginning of December, the Thrashers are 14-19-8, including a stretch featuring just five wins in their last 23 games. That’s allowed the Canes to surge ahead, but Maurice isn’t taking them lightly based on their recent games.

“Their record hasn’t been great, but their chances for and chances against have been very high,” he said. “They’ve really put up a lot of offense in their games and played pretty darn well, so we’re expecting their best and they should expect ours.”

The Hurricanes have won all four meetings between the teams this year. However, the series has not been as dominant as the record might suggest, with the Canes needing overtime or a shootout to win three of those. The Canes’ lone regulation win on Feb. 13 in Atlanta also came by one goal – a late strike by Cole with 1:19 left on the clock.

That goal was one of three game-winners for Cole in the season series, with the other two coming in overtime at the RBC Center.

“Just dumb luck,” said Cole, who has 7 game-winning goals on the season/

Tonight’s visitors will be without a key piece in defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who suffered a lower-body injury earlier in the week. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound All-Star is Atlanta’s second highest-scorer with 49 points, trailing captain and former Hurricane Andrew Ladd by one.

Maurice said Byfuglien’s absence could have a big impact on the way the Thrashers play tonight.

“He’s up in the play so much that he’s a challenge to handle and he’s got that bomb at the point, but at the same time they may play a little more sorted game, a little more defensive-minded game and be in some ways tougher to play against,” said Maurice.

Cole agreed that Byfuglien being out of the lineup would affect Atlanta more on the offensive side of the ice, but also noted that Atlanta was able to erase a one-goal deficit and earn a point the last time they were in Raleigh on Feb. 5 despite Byfuglien sitting on the bench for the final 10 minutes.

“They’ve got plenty of capable guys out there,” he said.

Thrashers defenseman Paul Postma, a 22-year-old who has spent the season with Chicago of the American Hockey League, will make his NHL debut in Byfuglien’s place.

It appears as though the Hurricanes will keep their altered defensive pairings from Tuesday’s practice, with Bryan Allen alongside Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason skating with Jay Harrison. The pairing of Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain remains intact, with Derek Joslin serving as the healthy scratch.


SCHEDULE

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AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81