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Gameday: Canes Ride Winning Streak Into Preseason Finale

Friday, 09.27.2013 / 2:15 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Ride Winning Streak Into Preseason Finale
Riding a two-game winning streak, the Carolina Hurricanes wrap up their six-game preseason schedule against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night in Raleigh.

Michael Smith
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The Sabres topped Carolina 5-2 in the team’s first meeting just over a week ago, but since then, the Canes have strung together consecutive exhibition wins – a 3-1 victory over Montreal on Saturday and a 2-1 finish in Columbus last night – for the first time since 2010. A win tonight would ensure the Hurricanes their fourth .500 preseason finish in five seasons.

“We’re pleased with the last couple of games,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “There’s one more game for some guys who have the opportunity to show what they have.”

As teased by Muller on Thursday, the lines are shuffled for tonight’s final dress rehearsal. Radek Dvorak slides up alongside Jiri Tlusty and Eric Staal, and Chris Terry shimmies down to the left wing with Brett Sutter and Kevin Westgarth. Zac Dalpe is in the lineup, while Jeremy Welsh is the healthy extra.

On defense, Brett Bellemore and Matt Corrente will sit out while the coaching staff tests new pairings with the six blue-liners in the lineup.

“It’s our last game, and tomorrow is a day off, so we can push them again tonight,” Muller said. “It’s sort of a mix of making sure the veterans get the right amount of ice time and giving the other guys fighting for jobs that opportunity to battle and try to earn it.”

One grouping that remains constant is the team’s second line of Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer. Gerbe netted two goals in last night’s 2-1 victory over Columbus, including the game-winning goal in the final minute.

The play (which you can see at the 1:48 mark here) began with Staal using his big frame to win a battle at the blue line and chip the puck to Dwyer, who then found Gerbe slipping through the defense. Some nifty mitts from Gerbe potted the goal, his team-leading third of the exhibition season.

“Jordan, everyone knows what he brings to the table. Patrick is a hard-working guy, and I think all three of us have one thing in common, and that’s work. It seems to click well,” Gerbe said. “[The coaches] are giving me a good opportunity, and it’s my job to try and take advantage of it. I can’t ask for anything else beside that.”

“We want to push him. We’d like to see him score a couple every night,” Muller quipped when asked about Gerbe’s chances of winning a roster spot. “It’s safe to say that he’s certainly taken advantage of [his opportunity], played well and produced, so that’s a lot in his favor so far.”

Cam Ward will receive his second straight start in net, but Muller said it’s undecided whether the 29-year-old goaltender will play the entire game. Ward made 25 saves in his first victory of the preseason last night in Columbus.

“It’s one more day of him mentally preparing for another game,” Muller said. “We’ll evaluate it as the game goes on … to see how much play he gets. If we feel like it’s good for him to just play half a game, we’ll make that judgment call.”

Tonight will mark Buffalo’s seventh and final preseason match. They have compiled a 4-1-1 record, most recently topping the Blue Jackets 3-0 on Wednesday. After the Sabres’ pugilistic match in Toronto on Sunday, Muller said he doesn’t expect tonight’s tilt to be too rowdy.

“They’ve got some personnel that play hard and can agitate you. I think it’s important that we keep our discipline and play our game,” he said. “It’s a game of emotions, for sure. Things happen, and nothing is pre-planned. Guys want to finish on a good note and play hard.”

With key players (Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason and Elias Lindholm) still sidelined with injuries, tonight’s match gives the Canes’ coaching staff one last chance to tinker with their game group before opening night, which is exactly a week away.

“We don’t know if they’ll be ready for the opener or not, so we’ve got to take it one day at a time, assess our personnel and make decisions that give us the best lineup possible on Oct. 4,” he said.

Tonight’s Lineup

Tlusty-E. Staal-Dvorak
Gerbe-J. Staal-Dwyer
Bowman-Nash-Dalpe
Terry-Sutter-Westgarth

Faulk-Hainsey
Sekera-Murphy
Harrison-Komisarek

Ward, Khudobin



SCHEDULE

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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