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Pitkanen Out vs. Tampa Bay

Saturday, 03.26.2011 / 12:17 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Pitkanen Out vs. Tampa Bay
Update 5:15 p.m.: Joni Pitkanen (possible food poisoning) will not play. Jamie McBain will return to the lineup and will be paired with Derek Joslin to start.

He’d probably prefer to have to make it in this case, but for now, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice may dodge a potentially tough decision with his defense.

Paul Branecky
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On Saturday morning, Maurice said that Joni Pitkanen was feeling “under the weather” and would be a game-time decision for that night’s return leg of a back-to-back, home-and-home series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. If Pitkanen can’t play, that would give the team the regular allotment of six defensemen rather than the seven that thought they would have with the return of Jamie McBain from a shoulder injury.

“We’ll see how he comes to the rink tonight,” said Maurice of Pitkanen.

The Canes’ coach added that he would keep the same group at forward, making Troy Bodie a healthy scratch for the sixth consecutive game. Having all but ruled out the idea of removing a forward from his fourth line and dressing seven defensemen for Saturday’s game days ago, Maurice made it sound even less likely this morning.

“I thought that fourth line played maybe as well as it’s played maybe this year,” he said.

McBain’s return had the potential to cause some headaches, as no blueliner who played in Friday’s game has mad a strong case to sit out. Derek Joslin, who had been a healthy scratch until McBain’s injury, neared the 20-minute mark once again and was a plus-1 for the third consecutive game, bringing his total to plus-8 in nine games with Carolina.

Still, if a healthy scratch was to be made, it likely would not have been Pitkanen, who played just over 22 minutes on Friday while posting 2 assists and a plus-2 rating. Beginning with his overtime winner against the New York Islanders last week, Pitkanen has 4 points in his last three games.

That run by Pitkanen is one of many such stretches through the lineup at the moment, as the Canes have answered a dry spell of five goals in four games with 11 in their last three – all victories.

“We’re trying to find that balance of when the puck absolutely has to go to the net with a very low-percentage shot to when we want to control the puck and not give it away,” said Maurice of the team’s offensive turnaround.

Despite those victories, the Canes sit in the same position as they were at the beginning of the week – three points behind the eighth-placed Buffalo Sabres, who have won their last two games. Maurice, who spoke of breaking out the superstitions last week in order to get some help from around the league, said there’s not much more he can do in that regard.

“I think I’ve got most of them out now,” he said. “When you win and you play like you did last night, you always feel like you’ve got a chance. You’ve just got to keep doing that, and then you can’t control the other parts of the world.”

Maurice said the he expected the Lightning, who were held to just three shots in the second period on Friday – a season-best for the Canes – to apply more offensive pressure in game No. 2, especially after they scored twice in the last 6:43 to make it a one-goal game and cause some nervous moments.

“I think they’re going to try to put every puck at the net tonight and get a lot more aggressive around there,” he said.

After staring Dwayne Roloson Friday, the Lightning may opt to use backup Mike Smith, who is 0-6-3 with a 3.29 goals-against average in his career against the Canes, in Raleigh. As always, the Canes will counter with Cam Ward.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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