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Gameday: Canes and Devils Square Off Again

Friday, 11.29.2013 / 12:30 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes and Devils Square Off Again
The Carolina Hurricanes will close out a home-and-home Thanksgiving sandwich with the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at PNC Arena in yet another important divisional match-up.

Michael Smith
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“It’s like any game in this 82-game season. Every game is so important,” said forward Tuomo Ruutu, who has scored a goal in two straight games. “When you look at the schedule, game after game, it’s tough opponent after tough opponent, divisional game after divisional game. It’s so important to grind it out every game. Every game should feel like the last game of the season.

“I’ve experienced it twice when we’ve lost the last game of the season and not made the playoffs, and I always try to think when we’re playing that 45th game or whatever, this might be the game. One play might be the difference.”

The Canes are riding a two-game winning streak, having topped the Devils 4-3 at Prudential Center on Wednesday. Spurred by a three-goal second period, the second in as many games, the Canes jumped out to a 4-1 lead and held on for a one-goal victory.

Team confidence, head coach Kirk Muller said, is probably the highest it has been since the start of the season.

“I think what we’ve been harping on is the base of our game without the puck. We have to play strong defensively, and bring that consistently every game,” he said. “Now, we’re starting to see more pucks go in the net, but I think that’s just the result of doing the right things. Over time, it pays off.”

In addition to Ruutu’s two-game goal streak, centerman Eric Staal has points in seven straight games (3g, 6a) and assists in five straight. On both of Ruutu’s goals, Staal has set the table beautifully with a tape-to-tape pass, one hitting Ruutu in stride as he slid through a seam in the defense and one a centering pass into the slot that Ruutu finished emphatically.

“I’m moving my feet more, and that’s really key for me. I can get my hits and, at the same time, get to the net for rebounds,” Ruutu said. “We’ve been better with the puck as a team, and for me, I’ve been better as an individual.”

Muller was complimentary of Staal, saying many on the team have raised their level of play, but the captain is leading the way.

“Eric’s really picked up his pace. His pace is quicker now. He’s going more direct. He’s faster, he’s hungrier and he’s got his confidence again,” Muller said. “When he’s going like that, now he looks like a power forward who’s tough to contain.”

With the win in New Jersey on Wednesday, the Canes vaulted past the Devils into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. With 25 points (10-10-5), Carolina currently sits just a point back of second place, as Washington and New York each have 26 points.

A win tonight would mean an eight-point swing for the Canes in this home-and-home set against a divisional opponent.

“It’s going to be about consistency,” Muller said. “We were fortunate to win in there, but tonight is going to be a hard night, and we’ve got to be ready to compete and play hard with them.

“I thought we moved the puck well. We stretched them out. They’re a really good team that plays with five guys as a group. They can really isolate you in your zone and in the neutral zone,” Muller said of Wednesday’s game. “We knew that we had to really skate and put pucks in the right areas to spread them out and get scoring opportunities. I thought our puck placement was really good, and we were first on pucks which gave us an opportunity to play some time in the offensive zone.”

The Canes will try for their third win in a row without the services of Andrej Sekera (upper-body injury, day-to-day), a top-pairing defenseman. Ron Hainsey will play to the left of Justin Faulk, and Mike Komisarek will draw into the lineup beside Brett Bellemore.

“We have confidence in Mike; it’s just been a numbers game. He’s worked so hard every day, and he’s been such a great pro. I think a lot of guys are pulling for him to have a good game tonight. He’s done everything that’s been asked from him, and he’s been a great team guy,” Muller said. “I’m sure he’ll be ready and excited to play tonight.”

Cam Ward will make his fourth straight start in net. He’s stopped 89 of his last 96 shots faced, earning points in all three games.

“Cam has come back and played extremely well. If he’s giving us a chance to win like he has the last few games, then we’ll keep going with him,” Muller said.

Though it’s not official, Ward is riding a two-game “Oh-my-God-I-can’t-believe-he-made-that-save” streak, after making a desperation stick save on Colin Greening on Sunday and stunning the New Jersey crowd on Wednesday with a phenomenal glove save on Adam Henrique.

“That’s what No. 1 goalies do. They make those saves. He’s making them, and that’s what we need from him,” Muller said. “It’s obviously a big lift for us because they’ve been such timely saves. That’s what he’s here for.”

It’s Black Friday, and the Canes will be wearing their black third uniform set tonight. They are 1-1 in the alternate sweaters this season.



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