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Wild vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Canes Get Healthy

Thursday, 02.28.2013 / 12:30 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Get Healthy
In one fell swoop, it appears as if the Carolina Hurricanes are healthy once again.

Michael Smith
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Jeff Skinner, Tim Brent, Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain will all return to the lineup tonight when the Canes host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“You can’t replace veteran guys and their experience,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “It’s going to give us a lift tonight.”

The quartet of those returning combined for 20 man-games lost over the last two weeks. Gleason missed six games with a lower-body injury, Skinner (concussion) and Brent (lower-body) missed five games each and McBain was sidelined for four games with an upper-body concern.

Joni Pitkanen skated with the team this morning and remains day-to-day. Muller said Pitkanen, who has missed six games with a lower-body injury, could be back in the lineup as early as Saturday.

Before exiting the lineup two weeks ago, Skinner was developing chemistry with Jordan Staal on the team’s second line. Skinner, who ranks tied for second on the team in goals (7) and ranks tied for third on the team in points (14) will find himself on Staal’s familiar left wing again tonight.

“Jordan is able to hold the puck and gain space. He’s a big power-forward. When he has the opportunity to draw people into him, Skinner is more of a guy that reacts off of people,” Muller said. “He finds his openings and his time and space from it. Because of that, it’s opened it up for Skinner to do his thing and be more creative.

“Jordan is very excited to have Skinner back tonight. And we are. It makes us a better team with him in the lineup.”

Following in the footsteps of Alexander Semin’s first game against his former team on Tuesday, Staal will face off with the team he spent six seasons with for the first time since the wedding-day trade that saw him head south and sent Brandon Sutter, among other assets, to the Steel City.

Staal registered 248 points (120g, 128a) in 431 games with Pittsburgh, helping the team capture the Stanley Cup in 2009. This season, Staal leads Carolina in assists (11), ranks second in points (15) and ranks second in faceoff win percentage (52.2 percent).

In four seasons with the Hurricanes, Sutter posted 107 points (53g, 54a). This season, he’s recorded eight points (4g, 4a) and a career-best 50.8 percent faceoff win percentage.

“It’s fun. Our staff being ex-players, we’ve all been there so we know what it’s like,” Muller said. “He had a great experience in Pittsburgh as far as winning a championship there. It will be an emotional game for him tonight.”

The Hurricanes, who are looking to capture 17 of a possible 28 points in February, will need a strong first-period effort against a fast-starting Pittsburgh club. The Penguins have scored first in 15 of their 20 games played (11-4-0 record) and have outscored opponents 23-9 in the first frame. The Canes have been outscored 21-7 in the opening 20 minutes, scoring first just four times (3-0-1 record) in their first 18 games.

“We need better starts,” Muller said, matter-of-factly. “You don’t want to be playing catch-up hockey. Teams can play a different style when they have the lead, so we have to come out harder and get results early in the game.”

Over .500 on the road, Carolina is a game below .500 at home at 3-4. Arguably the team's strongest effort at home came Feb. 14 when they suffocated Toronto, beating the Leafs 3-1. The key? Coming off a season-long six-game road trip, the Canes mentally treated it as the last game of the road trip rather than the first game back home.

“We simplify our game [on the road],” Muller said. “We’ve got a young team, and naturally, you come out and want to do well at home. You start being riskier and doing things you’re not supposed to do, and it catches up to you.”

Cam Ward, who said he is celebrating his leap-year birthday today (Bobby Sanguinetti, also a Feb. 29 baby, is doing the same), gets the start in net for Carolina.



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYI 63 41 20 2 202 174 84
3 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
4 TBL 63 38 19 6 207 167 82
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 63 33 20 10 184 159 76
8 BOS 61 30 22 9 161 160 69
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 62 25 27 10 139 164 60
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 60 23 30 7 137 159 53
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 60 11 28 -14 39
E. Staal 55 18 18 -9 36
E. Lindholm 59 11 16 -15 27
J. Skinner 55 16 9 -15 25
R. Nash 57 7 15 -8 22
N. Gerbe 56 7 14 -11 21
V. Rask 58 8 11 -16 19
J. McClement 60 4 12 1 16
J. Staal 24 4 11 -1 15
A. Semin 36 2 12 -8 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 16 19 4 .914 2.35
A. Khudobin 7 11 3 .906 2.60