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Gameday: Win One for the Fans

Thursday, 04.5.2012 / 12:48 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Win One for the Fans
Tonight’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens doesn’t carry any weight in terms of playoff implications.

Michael Smith
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But there remains something to play for: the fans.

Not only would the team like to close out the season strong tonight and Saturday in Florida, but they would also like to reward the fans with a strong effort, especially after Saturday’s 5-0 loss to New Jersey. Head coach Kirk Muller said that game was disappointing, even more so because it was in front of the home fans.

A strong effort in a 2-1 win in Ottawa on Tuesday has team spirits on the rebound heading into tonight’s match-up and a third of the way to Muller’s goal for the end of the season: three wins in a row.

“We want to go right to the end,” Muller said. “I said to the guys that it was a much better feeling after the Ottawa game the way they played. They were focused, played hard and got better results.

“It’s the last game at home. We want to finish the proper way and play well in front of our fans.”

In addition to winning for the fans, a couple of notable personal milestones are also on the table.

Cam Ward will start in net and go for his 30th win this season. In each of the four seasons that Ward has been the healthy starting goaltender, he’s eclipsed 30 wins. In three games against Montreal this season, Ward has a 1-1-1 record with a 3.25 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.

Another personal milestone on the line tonight belongs to Eric Staal, who can reach the 25-goal and/or 70-point plateau. Staal is one of just eight National Hockey League players to record at least 25 goals in each of the six seasons since in the lockout. (Dany Heatley, Jerome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis and Thomas Vanek are the other seven.) Staal has also reached 70 points in those six seasons and is a point shy of that mark coming into tonight.

Barring a freak injury between now and puck drop, tonight will mark Bryan Allen’s 600th game in the NHL and 100th with the Hurricanes. Finally, Tuomo Ruutu is a point shy of 300 career points. His game-winning goal Tuesday in Ottawa ended a 14-game goal drought dating back to two games before he was injured in Montreal on Feb. 13.

Opposite the Canes will be 34-goal-scorer Erik Cole and the Canadiens, who are ranked last place in the Eastern Conference. Winless in the four games prior, the Habs defeated the Lightning 5-2 on Wednesday night. Cole scored two goals, padding his career-high goal mark.

The Habs will be without the services of goaltender Carey Price, who was diagnosed with a “mild” concussion. Peter Budaj faced just 16 shots against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, making 14 saves in the team’s win.

After playing in the team’s last 12 games, forward Drayson Bowman was reassigned to Charlotte of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. The thought was that Andreas Nodl might be able to play, after being cleared for contact following a concussion he suffered in Winnipeg on March 18. But after talking with Nodl this morning, Muller decided to hold him out of the lineup tonight. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek will dress against his former team after missing the last eight games. He’s played just 9:40 in the last 11 games.

It’s the home finale in the 2011-12 season, the last chance for the Hurricanes to send the home fans home happy. According to the players and head coach, that in itself is well worth playing for.

“The fans have been great, and I think I’ve mentioned that the last few days, but it’s true,” Muller said. “Once you’re here and part of the organization, you hear it daily. Seeing them consistently, the passion is there, they’re behind the team, they support the team and now it’s our job to continue to put a good product out there that they want to come watch.



SCHEDULE

HOME
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
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81