Red and Black Hockey
On Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes were beaten badly by the Bruins. Although the scoreboard indicated a final tally of 5-1, it wasn’t even remotely that close. Boston was, by a million miles, the better team. If there is any good that came out of the game, it’s that Carolina still hasn’t been shut out this season. That sure is a cute statistic, but it won’t matter one iota if the Canes are making tee times for Pinehurst #2 this spring instead of playing playoff hockey.
Very early in the game, a potential breakaway for Eric Staal fell by the wayside when he collided with referee Dan O’Halloran at center ice. To Staal’s credit, he didn’t get upset with O’Halloran or himself, but it was a potential tone setter gone wrong.
Two losses in a row means that Carolina’s foothold in the playoff race has gotten a little shakier. However, the schedule is rather kind for the next eight games.
Here’s to hoping that the Carolina Panthers have a better fate this evening as they host the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC semifinal game. Kickoff a little after 8:00.
On Sunday night, the Hurricanes needed some heroics from goaltender Michael Leighton in order to squeak out a 3-1 victory in Anaheim. The Canes took three of a possible four points in California, getting the six game road trip off to a good start.
Michael Leighton got his second start of the year, and he was much better than he was in his win against Tampa. Partial credit on that goes to better defense in front of him, denying second chances. Mostly, though, the credit is his for having better rebound control and better awareness.
Rod Brind’Amour and Eric Staal got key goals late in the game, and Ryan Bayda continued his impressive campaign by scoring his second goal of the season.
On Friday, the Hurricanes will play the first of six straight road games, and they’ll have to do it with yet another forward on the shelf.
When Carolina visits Los Angeles tonight at 10:30, they’ll most likely be doing it without Tuomo Ruutu. He missed most of the pre-season with a groin issue, and it’s persisted enough for his status to be deemed “doubtful”.
Ruutu makes three top nine wingers on the injured list. There will be a lot of line juggling, and Chad “Sharpie” LaRose was practicing with the top line on Thursday, so he might get a chance to do that in game action. Patrick Eaves, who started the season on the top line, has found his way into Peter Laviolette’s doghouse, but there’s no telling how the lines will be made tonight.
Still, this is an opportunity for another young player.
On Monday, the Hurricanes lost their first game of the season 3-1 to the Red Wings. Even though they lost the game, the Hurricanes can take some good things out of the game.
They also debuted their new alternate third sweater, which is actually a whole uniform. They looked stealthy and ninja-like with their black socks, black pants, black gloves, black sweater and black lids. I like the uniform in action even more than I thought I would. I wasn’t in the building tonight, but they looked sharp on teevee.
Unlike the first two games, Carolina actually looked good in all three zones in the first period. Like the first two games, they were scored upon first. Unlike the first two games, they were unable to come back.
Carolina opened their 11th season on Friday with a wild game against division foe Florida and a 6-4 win. It wasn’t pretty, but two points in the standings look good any day of the week.
The Hurricanes stumbled out of the gates, giving up two goals in the first six minutes of the contest, but settled in nicely with goals from six different players and assists from seven different players. At the end of it all, Tim Gleason earned the game’s first star with three assists.
Recap and notes after the jump
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The unbearably long wait is finally over. Tonight is opening night for Carolina and 12 other teams. Thousands of hockey fans in Carolina will be cutting out of work early, or skipping work altogether. The RBC Center parking lot will fill up early and the sweet sweet smell of propane and grilled meat will be thick. Cold beer and loud music will be coming from every tailgate. Friendships will be renewed and new ones will be forged. The sun will be shining and the birds will be singing. It’s hockey night in Carolina.
Unfortunately, I won’t be there for opening night. Instead, for the first time since 2001, I’ll be watching the home opener from RBH headquarters.
Earlier, Paul wrote about a scheduling problem in the City of Tampa. It seems that some professional baseball team from the Bay area is participating in some post-season tournament, and one of their games is scheduled for the same time as the Bolts home opener against Carolina on Saturday.
Under normal circumstances, the city would just cope with it, as Detroit did when both the Red Wings and Pistons were simultaneously playing home playoff games on the same night last summer. Or they might petition the league to move the start time of one or the other game. In this case, Carolina has veto power on bumping up the start time of the hockey game because they will be on the back end of a back-to-back, and the proposed start time of 5:00 would be just 19 hours after the end of Friday’s game. Carolina said “thanks but no thanks”, and certain people have been rubbed the wrong way.
Carolina is used to having grenades lobbed its way by the press from the Sunshine State, but this is getting really silly.
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes announced their final roster cuts. Defenseman/Right Wing Tim “We Got us a Great Big” Conboy, left wing Trevor Gillies and winger Joe Jensen have been sent to Albany, putting the roster at 25 men. Justin Williams and Scott Walker are on the injured reserve, so that unofficially puts them at 23, where they need to be for opening night.
It hurts a little bit to see Conboy sent down, as he has been a RBH favorite, but he was injured during camp and didn’t get much of a chance to play. He will most likely have a few cups of coffee this winter, but he’ll begin the season at the AHL level.
The big news here is that free agent try-out Dan LaCouture has made the final roster, as has 2008 first round draft selection Zach Boychuk. In all likelihood, Boychuk will play in nine or fewer games, then be returned to Lethbridge of the WHL. He is still recovering from surgery and hasn’t been cleared for contact yet, so he’ll be a scratch on opening night. It looks like the lines will look like this:
Today, I expected to hear some news about final cuts made to the Hurricanes roster. Instead, I came home to learn that forward Scott Walker will be out of the lineup for the next six weeks. Walker, who has become more of a hothead with every passing month, injured his left hand in a fight during last Sunday’s preseason game in Philly. He had surgery today and will miss the first quarter of the season.
Things were starting to look a little better on the injury front, but this will throw a wrench in the opening night plans.
No cuts have been made, and the roster stands at 28, but free agent tryout Dan LaCouture was signed to a two-way one-year contract today. The 31-year old has played in a total of 326 NHL games with five different teams, and has been out of the NHL since 2006-07. According to all reports, he came into camp in terrific shape and has impressed the coaches all along.
At this point, anyone’s guess is just as good as mine, but here’s my updated projections for the opening night lines:
After losing the first three exhibition games (and looking bad doing so) the Hurricanes rattled off three straight wins to finish the preseason. Carolina will start playing games that count on Friday with a home game against the Panthers.
Eric Staal and Ray Whitney scored today for a 2-0 shutout over the Preds. Cam Ward went the distance, making 31 stops with both teams pretty much fielding the “A team”.
For the first time all preseason, Rod Brind’Amour played. He skated 19 shifts for a total of 15:04 of ice time. He took just 13 of the faceoffs, compared to 17 taken by Brandon Sutter. This was pretty much the plan: to use him sparingly.
About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.