Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Maple Leafs
Muller to Get Better Assessment of Dalpe Tonight
The Hurricanes have already defeated the Leafs once at home, a 3-2 win on Nov. 20 in which Jeff Skinner scored the game-winning goal. Jussi Jokinen also scored in that game, and he has gone without a goal since.
Forward Zac Dalpe will play in his second game back with the big club after being recalled on an emergency basis for Patrick Dwyer, who suffered an upper-body injury late in the game Friday against Ottawa.
Tuesday night in Pittsburgh was his first game under head coach Kirk Muller and also his first game-action since Dec. 20 when the Charlotte Checkers last played. An extended break for the holidays kept Dalpe off the ice for most of the week.
Against the Penguins, Dalpe skated on a line with Eric Staal and Drayson Bowman. He logged 12:43 of ice time – playing even-strength and on the power play – and was a minus-2.
“[Bowman and I] have played in the past in the minors, but when you put all three together, it’s different no matter what kind of chemistry you have,” Dalpe said. “I thought we had some good shifts together. A couple minuses doesn’t look good on the score sheet, but there are definitely some positives we can draw from it.”
Yesterday in practice, Dalpe remained on Staal’s wing and was opposed by Jiri Tlusty; Bowman slid down to flank Brandon Sutter on the left wing. Muller didn’t want to break up Jokinen’s line, which has arguably the team’s best group over the past week.
“I think it’s a tough game to judge on him,” Muller said of Dalpe against Pittsburgh. “I talked to him. He’s had a long, long Christmas break. The he comes back and jumps into a game against Pittsburgh in Pitt. They’re fresh, they’re ready to go, we played the night before. I said to him, ‘You got your feet wet in that game. Just be prepared to go against Toronto.’”
And so Dalpe is ready. He and most of the team didn’t skate this morning, but the 22-year-old Paris, Ontario native is looking forward to being back on the RBC Center ice.
“I feel good, ready to go and excited for tonight,” he said. “Playing with Eric Staal, you don’t have a choice but to be excited.”
It’s easy to assume that Dalpe would be nervous or looking to feed the struggling Staal, who, after putting together a four-game point streak (2g, 4a), hasn’t had a point in his last six. But that would go against what the coaching staff has told him. Muller’s advice to Dalpe has been the same as what he’s told the other young players: seize the opportunity and play your game, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
“That kind of echoes what the old coach Paul Maurice said, too, when I was put with Staal in the exhibition games,” Dalpe said. “[The coaches said], ‘Don’t feel like you have to alter your game to play with him. Obviously, he’s a good player, and he’s going to get you the puck. Don’t feel like you need to change your game to be on his line because, at the end of the day, you’re on his line for your game.’”
Justin Peters put in a good session with assistant coach Tom Barrasso this morning, so expect Cam Ward to be in net for the Hurricanes.
Jaroslav Spacek was one of three other Canes on the ice this morning. He didn’t practice yesterday in what was a maintenance day for the defenseman after he blocked a shot in the third period on Tuesday. Spacek will be in the lineup tonight.