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Blues vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Gameday: A Long Time Coming

Tuesday, 01.22.2013 / 12:15 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: A Long Time Coming
It has been a long time coming.

Michael Smith
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The last time the Carolina Hurricanes played a home game at PNC Arena, it was 70 degrees in early April 2011. Nine months later, when the wind chill has plunged the temperature into the 20’s, the Canes are back on home ice.

It has been a long time coming – for the new faces as well as the old.

“I’m very excited, and hopefully the fans are too,” Jordan Staal said. “I’m sure the crowd will be nice and loud. I’m just anxious to get going.”

“Our crowd and atmosphere is pretty awesome to play in front of. It’s been a long time waiting for this game,” Eric Staal said. “Guys are excited. The energy in this building will be through the roof.”

“Enjoy the moment tonight,” said head coach Kirk Muller about his message to the team. “The fans have been waiting for this game for awhile. We’re excited to play here.”

When the team takes the ice tonight, they will have a bit of a different look than they did in Florida on Saturday. With Zac Dalpe out with an illness (he skated at length today, but will not dress), Muller juggled the lines, in part out of necessity and in part out of experimentation.

Drayson Bowman will play on the first line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, replacing Zach Boychuk who will be a healthy scratch.

“I think Bo is capable of skating with those guys,” Muller said. “It’s a look we wanted to see before camp started.”

The wing pair of Chad LaRose and Jiri Tlusty slid up to surround Jordan Staal, as Jeff Skinner and Patrick Dwyer now flank Jussi Jokinen.

Rounding out the forward corps is the trio of Jeremy Welsh, Tim Brent and Kevin Westgarth. This will be Welsh’s first NHL game since joining the Canes in Florida for their season finale last April, and it will be Westgarth’s Canes’ debut and his first NHL action since Feb. 16, 2012. Both Welsh, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and Westgarth, 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds, punctuate the lineup with size and grit.

“The fourth line is a good-sized line with some good-sized bodies,” Muller said.

On defense, Jamie McBain will be the healthy extra for the second game in a row. The pairings were also moved around and can be seen here.

As was the case last week, these are combinations the coaching staff likes on paper. But, without the luxury of preseason games to see how they translate on-ice, the team is adjusting on the fly. It has made for an unpredictable first week of games, as teams attempt to balance wins with the ephemeral search for chemistry.

“A lot of that ugliness as far as pucks bouncing and passes not being as sharp kind of gets out your system when you play those preseason games,” Eric Staal said. “The quicker you adjust and get better, the better off you are. We have addressed last game, tweaked some areas and look forward to playing a better game tonight.”

“Hockey can be unpredictable for the most part, but there are definitely teams that still need to find their identity and get the timing back in their game,” Jordan Staal said. “Our goal is to be a hard-working team, use our speed and work in the other team’s end.”

The Canes catch the Tampa Bay Lightning on the second half of their first back-to-back set of the season. After topping Washington 6-3 on Saturday, the Lightning dropped a 4-3 decision against the New York Islanders Monday afternoon.

The Hurricanes are expecting a capacity crowd for tonight’s divisional tilt, the first of five meetings between these two teams.

It has been a long time coming, and now it is finally here.

“We felt we tweaked the things we needed to from game one, and there are a lot of good things we thought we did do,” Muller said. “I think we have a good team, but you have to earn it, and you have to go out and work for it.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NYI 47 32 14 1 155 130 65
2 DET 48 28 11 9 144 123 65
3 TBL 49 30 15 4 158 131 64
4 MTL 46 30 13 3 126 108 63
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 NYR 45 27 14 4 135 110 58
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 45 20 15 10 111 127 50
10 TOR 49 22 23 4 143 152 48
11 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
12 PHI 49 20 22 7 134 149 47
13 CBJ 46 21 22 3 117 145 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 48 14 31 3 90 171 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 42 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 47 9 19 -13 28
E. Lindholm 47 9 11 -11 20
J. Tlusty 40 12 7 -11 19
J. Skinner 42 10 9 -7 19
R. Nash 47 7 12 -4 19
N. Gerbe 43 5 13 -3 18
V. Rask 47 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 45 1 14 -6 15
C. Terry 34 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .918 2.30
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45