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Lightning vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Canes Cap Closely-Contested Season Series vs. CBJ

Saturday, 03.29.2014 / 12:15 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Cap Closely-Contested Season Series vs. CBJ
The two teams have played four closely-contested matches, splitting the season series down the middle with the fifth and final meeting on tap.
The 2013-14 season marks the first year in which the Columbus Blue Jackets are a part of the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division. And all ready, there seems to be a bit of a rivalry brewing with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Michael Smith
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This notion is in part accentuated by the fact that the two teams have played four closely-contested matches, splitting the season series down the middle with the fifth and final meeting on tap tonight at PNC Arena.

“It’s going to be a big game. We look at it like if we win, we’re five [points] out,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “We feel we can still press. There’s a lot of hunger in us.”

In the last meeting between these two teams that took place just a week-and-a-half ago in Columbus, the Canes snatched a 3-1 victory in what was 50 seconds away from being Anton Khudobin’s first shutout of the season – as it turned out, that would come nine days later. The Blue Jackets handed the Canes a stinging 4-3 loss prior to the Christmas break, as they tallied twice in the last four minutes of the game to claim victory. In a Jan. 10 meeting in Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky, in his second game back from injury, posted a 36-save shutout in a 3-0 win. The Canes got come-from-behind revenge on the Blue Jackets 17 days later in Raleigh, scoring three unanswered goals in the third period to win 3-2.

It’s been a tight, back-and-forth season series that will take game No. 5 to decide.

“They don’t give up much. They’re a big team, and they’re built to play a tight game and a hard game,” Muller said. “They don’t give up many opportunities, so we’ve really battled to get any scoring opportunities, chances and goals. We’ve had some good goaltending against them. Games have been tight. When we get a chance, you have to be ready to capitalize.”

“It’s been tight. They’re a tight-checking, hard-nosed type team. You have to be willing to be up for the challenge as far as doing the right things with the puck and playing a heavy, grinding game. You can’t get frustrated, regardless, and they don’t give up a lot,” forward Eric Staal said. “It’s a good test for us tonight.”

Khudobin, who made a career-high 46 saves on 47 shots in Columbus on March 18, will get another crack at the Blue Jackets, as he gets the nod in net. The 27-year-old goaltender is coming off a 35-save shutout at Florida two nights ago.

“He’s playing really well. Shutouts are a nice bonus, but if you look at his stats, he’s been giving up three or less goals a game on a pretty consistent basis. That’s pretty impressive,” Muller said. “He’s been playing well, and he finally got the reward of a shutout the other night. His overall play has been pretty steady and solid.”

As has been the case recently, Staal will continue to play the left wing with Andrei Loktionov centering and Jiri Tlusty on the opposite wing. Tlusty netted twice in Florida, with Staal and Loktionov chipping in an assist each. The trio was a plus-6 combined, and Loktionov has five points (2g, 3a) in his last five games, including three points (1g, 2a) in his last two games.

“It was real good last game,” Staal said of the line combination. “It’s a different look, but for me, I’m comfortable at both positions. With Jiri and Lokti, they make some good plays and see the ice well.”

Tonight marks the Canes’ 74th game of the regular season and home game No. 38 with the team outside looking in on the playoff picture. Despite this, Staal said the team’s goal hasn’t changed from game No. 1.

“Wins. It’s all about results, and it’s all about points no matter what situation you’re in,” he said. “We know what situation we’re in as a group, and it’s about finding ways to win games.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 41 15 13 -8 28
J. Faulk 46 8 18 -14 26
J. Skinner 41 10 9 -7 19
E. Lindholm 46 9 10 -10 19
R. Nash 46 7 12 -4 19
J. Tlusty 39 11 7 -12 18
N. Gerbe 42 4 13 -2 17
V. Rask 46 6 9 -9 15
A. Sekera 44 1 14 -8 15
C. Terry 33 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 5 8 2 .916 2.32
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45