Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/09/09 at 09:43 AM ET
On Thursday night, the Hurricanes will play their final home game of the season. Their opponent will be the Sabres, who have a lot to play for tonight. Carolina is fighting to get to fourth place, and they’re trying to set a new franchise record with a tenth consecutive win and a thirteenth straight home win.
Weeks ago, I predicted that this game would be “epic” in proportions. At the beginning of March, I figured that both teams would be scratching and clawing just to get in the playoffs and that the winner of this game would determine that eighth spot. Even in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have forseen the run they’ve been on. Buffalo is indeed fighting for that last spot. They will also need outside help.
All indications are that the Hurricanes and Flyers are locked into the 4-5 position, but the matter of home ice is still up for grabs. The Flyers will be playing the Rangers at the same time. The outcome of that game will have implications for both the Hurricanes and the Sabres. Carolina wants the Rangers to win; Buffalo wants the Flyers to win. However, Buffalo’s interest in that game is totally predicated upon their play against the Canes. To a point, if the Sabres lose, they will be mathematically eliminated and none of the rest matters.
The Sabres will very likely play a very desperate game. They only have one option: win. They played in Toronto last night, which is a double whammy in terms of back-to-backs. In addition to the hassle of back-to-back games, they had to go through customs, which takes up valuable time.
I would expect Lindy Ruff to do some unorthodox things tonight. The line change rotation won’t be normal, and the power play units won’t be normal. He might even do something nutty like pull his goaltender during a power play.
Paul Maurice has indicated that he will be starting Cam Ward tonight, but he has also indicated that he would like to get Michael Leighton some action before the playoffs start. Maybe this means that we’ll see Kevin Weekes versus Michael Leighton on Saturday in New Jersey.
This is the final home game of the season, which always makes me sad. I opted out of playoff tickets this time (I’m still paying for my Stanley Cup tickets from 2006) but I still might make it to a game or two. Depending on the depth of the Canes’ run.
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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.