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Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Canes Host Defending Cup Champs

Tuesday, 10.15.2013 / 12:00 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Host Defending Cup Champs
The Carolina Hurricanes host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night in their third of three straight home games against Western Conference opponents.
The Carolina Hurricanes host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night in their third of three straight home games against Western Conference opponents.

Michael Smith
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The Canes have earned points in 11 of their last 12 games against the Blackhawks, dating back to March 2000. Since 1997, the Canes have posted an 11-2-3 record against Chicago, and the last time the Blackhawks won a game at Carolina was Jan. 14, 1998, a 4-1 decision at the Greensboro Coliseum.

But historical statistics won’t necessarily translate to tonight, when a 3-1-1 Chicago team comes to Raleigh for the first time since October 2011.

“We’ve got a great opponent tonight, and we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game. I think our guys [will] bounce back,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “I think they’re looking forward to a good, tough match-up tonight.”

Still, the Canes have recently fared well against Cup winners. Since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Carolina is 7-1-1 against defending champions.

Through five games in this early season, the Blackhawks have only trailed for 4:57, according to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. Perhaps a reason for this is because they jump on teams early. In the first two periods this season, the Blackhawks have outscored opponents 12-6 and outshot them 130-81.

“They’re a skating team, and they really take time and space away everywhere. There is not going to be any free time here tonight,” Muller said of Chicago. “They’re a direct team. They get the puck, and they’re putting everything to the net.”

The key to securing the Canes’ seventh win in their last eight home games against the Blackhawks? Rebound with an effort that’s smart, purposeful and energetic.

“Teams like Chicago, they have good players and they don’t beat themselves. They’re consistent on everything they do, and they do everything well,” Muller said. “That’s what we have to do tonight: play a good solid game, not beat ourselves and do the right things.

“We’ve got to be ready to play well defensively and be on the right side of the puck,” Muller continued. “When we do have the puck, we have to get our forwards skating. Puck placement is going to be really important in that we put it in areas where we can retrieve it again and create a good forecheck.”

The line combinations that Carolina utilized in practice on Monday will be in action tonight. Tuomo Ruutu will skate on the first line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin. The 30-year-old Finnish forward, who was drafted by Chicago ninth overall in 2001, returned from a lower-body injury on Sunday, logging 10:28 of ice time.

Ruutu said it took him a few shifts to settle into the pace of the game but said, physically, he felt fine.

“It’s tough to make those extra plays right away when you’ve been out for a long period of time,” he said. “So you get the first hit in, a couple passes and a shot, and you start feeling more comfortable.”

Muller said the coaching staff will monitor Ruutu tonight to see if he’s able to respond to top-line minutes. If not, a winger like Drayson Bowman can jump up for a few shifts.

“We’re going to push him,” Muller said. “If he’s going well, then great. If not, the important thing is having players that can go up in the lineup and take some ice time.”

Cam Ward will get the nod in net for the Canes. Ward, who should settle into regular starts with Anton Khudobin (lower-body) on injured reserve, is 3-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average and two shutouts in four career appearances against Chicago.

Tonight marks the fifth game the Hurricanes will have played at home in the 2013-14 season, a bit of an odd occurrence for this time of year. Following tonight’s game, the team will depart for its annual State Fair road trip – if you can even call it that. After two road games in Toronto and New York, the Canes return to Raleigh for three days of practice before heading West for a pair of games in Minnesota and Colorado.

“It’s going to be a good team to play at home, and it will be a high-tempo game,” Muller said. “It’s always nice to try to win the last game before you go on the road, and this is the one. This would be a great win to go into Toronto with.”

As a programming note, it’s Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at PNC Arena, and you will notice a number of players sporting lavender tape on their sticks to mark the occasion. Check out this blog post from yesterday to find out which organizations will be represented on the concourse and how you can support the Hurricanes, NHL and NHLPA in hockey’s most important fight.




1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48


E. Staal 69 21 28 -11 49
J. Faulk 74 15 32 -17 47
E. Lindholm 73 16 21 -19 37
J. Skinner 69 18 13 -21 31
V. Rask 72 11 20 -11 31
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 70 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 74 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 46 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 38 4 16 -7 20
C. Ward 20 21 5 .911 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62