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Tracking the Storm

Different Roles, Same Stakes for Canes, Thrashers

Wednesday, 03.09.2011 / 12:10 PM / 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
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 49 28 13 8 145 125 64
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 49 18 22 9 110 137 45
15 CAR 48 17 25 6 104 125 40
16 BUF 50 14 33 3 94 179 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 43 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 48 10 19 -13 29
E. Lindholm 48 9 11 -12 20
R. Nash 48 7 13 -4 20
J. Tlusty 41 12 7 -12 19
J. Skinner 43 10 9 -8 19
N. Gerbe 44 5 13 -4 18
V. Rask 48 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 46 1 14 -6 15
J. McClement 48 1 9 -2 10
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 11 17 4 .914 2.37
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .914 2.41