Game Time: 7:00PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Raise Up: Canes Country
We now interrupt special coverage of Teuvo Day In America to bring you our regularly scheduled preview for tonight’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Chicago Blackhawks.
It isn’t for lack of effort or thought that the Carolina Hurricanes have been anywhere from bad to mediocre over the past two seasons. GM Jim Rutherford has tried to construct his team the right way with center depth by going out and acquiring Jordan Staal to provide stability behind older brother and captain Eric and Hockey Bieber Jeff Skinner. He added Russian Enigma ™ Alex Semin for some firepower from the wing. He’s acquired puck moving defensemen on the cheap in J-M Liles and Ron Hainsey. He signed Anton Khudobin to a vomit-inducingly cheap contract compared to Antii Raanta and Nikolai Khabibulin’s deals to back up the perpetually achy and expensive Cam Ward. He even got Kirk Muller, a highly sought after assistant that has come in and preached a modern, uptempo game. But it just hasn’t worked out yet.
The Canes come in to tonight 9 points out of the wild card in the east and basically left for dead. They traded away old friend Tuomo Ruutu at the deadline for Andrei Loktionov, a project that neither the Kings or Devils could quite solve. They’re just simply not getting enough offense from all parties. Eric Staal is getting paid $9 million dollars to produce 52 points, which is good for the team lead, but not so much for return on investment. Jeff Skinner leads the team with 26 goals despite missing eleven games, so there’s not been much help from those counted on for it, namely Semin with 19 goals, and the Staal brothers COMBINING for 30. That they’re accomplishing this playing in the east is truly something.
One of the lone bright spots for Carolina has been Khudobin, who not only ably filled in when Cam Ward was hurt once again, but has for all intents and purposes taken his job, having been given a two year extension at about a 125% raise. Khudobin has posted a 2.25 GAA and a .925 save percentage while facing just a shade under 30 shots (29.96) per in his 27 appearances. That the Canes actually barely outchance their opponents per 60 minutes of even strength (+1.8 Corsi/60) and Khudobin still faces that much vulcanized rubber just serves to emphasize on their previously mentioned lack of finish, as well as a lack of a true #1 defender. Ryan Murphy may be that in the future, but when Andrej Sekera is a defacto #1 defenseman by any and every discernable metric, it might be time to bolster that corps, no matter how many puck movers they may have.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, they’ll be staring down the remainder of the regular season without Patrick Kane, as he was placed on LTIR today, which guarantees that he cannot return until the playoffs begin. In his place the Hawks have finally recalled Jeremy Morin, signed college free agent Matt Carey, and brought over some Turbo Tortellini kid from Finland. The latter skated with the team today in glorious HD on Comcast, but will not make his debut until at least Sunday. Jeremy Morin will skate with Peter Regin and Ben Smith, and the Human Shield line will get Sheldon Brookbank at forward. Which means that with Michal Rozsival already out, David Rundblad figures to be Nick Leddy’s partner tonight. Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad also will be enjoying the game in suits.
While the Canes have had their troubles, it’s a team that does have the firepower to run and gun with the Hawks, which they will undoubtedly choose to. They’ll give up chances, but Khudobin has been able to withstand that kind of workload. The station to station attack that the Hawks showed that they are in fact capable of executing on Wednesday needs to be a mantra from here on out; they cannot revert to their stretch pass tendencies as a default. There are still points left on the table to be had with a dozen games to go. Get out there and take them. Let’s go Hawks.