Much like the old Atlanta Flames, I never really understood the desire to name a team after calamities. Hurricanes can wipe out whole communities, and cause millions of dollars of damage annually. Why celebrate that with the hometown team? How can you cheer a name that is an ever-present danger? Nonetheless, the Hurricanes have a place in the NHL, and that's who we're facing tonight.
The Hurricanes are right in the thick of the playoff hunt, 5th place in the MEH-tropolitan Division. Their record of 24-20-9 has them 1 point behind third-place Columbus. Failing that, they can fight it out with Washington, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Ottawa for survival as the last wild card spot. All of those teams are separated by 2 points. This game, being against a Western Conference opponent, might once have been considered a throwaway game in other circumstances, but not now. These points are key for Carolina, and I know that they're going to be fighting and jamming the whole way through, up to the Olympic break. They've gone 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, and they've scored at least 3 goals in 6 of their last 7 games - the lone exception a 3-0 loss to Montreal on Tuesday. They still plan to keep on moving up the standings, either top three or wild card.
The Hurricanes have been hit hard by the injury bug, particularly in net. Just yesterday, the 'Canes announced that Cam Ward was being activated from the IR, and being sent down to the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) for a conditioning stint. This is the second injury that Ward has fought back from, and it has tested the Carolina goaltending depth. The backup-now-starter is Anton Khudobin, and he's posted an 11-4-0 record on the strength of a 2.24 GAA .925 save percentage. He was hurt for a while earlier this year himself, and this put the responsibility on the shoulders of Justin Peters. His stat line is 2.50 GAA and .919 Sv%, leading to a record of 7-9-4.
The overall points leader on the Hurricanes is Eric Staal: 44 points on 14 goals and 30 assists. That's followed by Jeff Skinner, the top goal-scorer with 22g, 15a. Andrej Sekera has 8g, 22a for 30 points, and Alex Semin is next with 12g, 15a. Jordan Staal rounds out the top 5 with 11 goals and 14 assists. Other players to watch out for are Nathan "Fun Size" Gerbe (4 points in the last 5 games) and Jiri "NSFW" Tlusty (points in the last 5 games) (source). Also, John-Michael Liles, who was traded to Carolina from Toronto during warm-ups of the Winter Classic. He's settled into a second-pairing defensive role. Additionally, the Carolina special teams is anything but: they have the 5th-worst power play at 14.1% and 7th-worst penalty kill at 79.8%. Not that there's a lot of examples - Carolina averages the fewest penalty minutes per game in the league. They also have the fewest 5-minute majors in the league (6) so far this year. Although, we all hope to see Semin stir it up again.
Final Verse: An early game once again, with the opening faceoff scheduled for 6:00 PM St Louis time. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. The GDT should drop just before the puck does. Until then, this is your pregame warmup. Gather here, bitch about the weather, speculate about the latest trade rumors, and learn how to reduce Alexander Semin's effectiveness on the ice: