WILD (0-1-0) vs. HURRICANES (1-0-0)
TV: VERSUS (HD), TSN (HD)
Season series: The Hurricanes took the opener of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere on Thursday night, 4-3, thanks to a pair of goals by Brandon Sutter and a goal and an assist from Jussi Jokinen. This is the second and final regular-season meeting between these teams.
Big Story -- Carolina's schedule is brutal when it returns home after Friday's game, and it would be huge if the Hurricanes could pick up four points here in Helsinki. They hit the road again for five straight in Ottawa, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix, then return home to open up at RBC Center against Washington before going to Madison Square Garden. After that, the Penguins come to town. Minnesota just wants to break even on this trip after falling Thursday night.
Hurricanes -- With contributions throughout the lineup Thursday, coach Paul Maurice left Hartwall Arena a happy man. He also left a concerned man, because the Hurricanes gave away too much in the third period and let Minnesota score late to make it a one-goal game in the final three minutes. Maurice understands with a young team there will be growing pains, but he was particularly displeased with how they moved the puck in the third period. He didn't see enough cohesiveness.
That being said, the Hurricanes got a great night from Sutter and Jokinen, and Cam Ward came up with some big saves down the stretch to preserve the win. The young kids, particular Jeff Skinner and Zac Dalpe, who were making their NHL debuts, did not look out of place.
"You know, I remember last year we started the season and we didn't score for about six periods or something," Hurricanes forward Chad LaRose told NHL.com. "It was good, the boys were excited and we were playing good hockey. Now we have to put this one behind us and get ready for (Friday)."
Wild -- Minnesota played well in spurts Thursday, got its chances and had an opportunity at the end to tie the game and at least salvage a point. The problem is the Wild couldn't recover from a bad second period and it cost them. They committed three penalties and gave up three goals in the middle 20 minutes, falling behind 4-2 heading into the third.
Coach Todd Richards was happy his team tested Ward and created more chances in the third period off the power play, but he knows that lapses like they had in the second will kill them.
"This League is too good and the teams are too close that if you give up three goals (in one period) that's a pretty big hill to climb," Richards said. "We battled, but we made some mistakes. I think we got outskated in some areas of the game that led to opportunities for them. We got caught watching at times, checking with our eyes instead of moving with our legs."
Who's Hot -- Sutter and Jokinen got off to good starts, which is important for a pair of young players looking to establish themselves in this League. … Despite a slashing penalty that gave Carolina a 5-on-3 and eventually led to Jokinen's goal, Wild center Matt Cullen had a strong debut for his home-state team with a goal and an assist.
Injury Report -- Richards is hopeful that an extra day of rest was good for defenseman Marek Zidlicky (groin), but he won't know his status until after the morning skate Friday.
Stat Pack -- Ten of Carolina's 18 skaters had at least a point in Thursday's season opener, including Dalpe, a rookie making his NHL debut. Dalpe had an assist on Anton Babchuk's goal 5:58 into the second period. … Skinner was also impressive in his NHL debut despite not hitting the score sheet. Skinner had a glorious chance in front turned aside by Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. He had two shots over 16:26 of ice time. … Minnesota owned the faceoff circle Thursday, winning 52 of the 85 draws. Mikko Koivu won 23 of 36 and Cullen won 17 of 25. Eric Staal lost 17 of 24.
Puck Drop -- When Maurice sat at the podium Thursday night, two Finnish TV stations were in the process of breaking down their equipment because Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen had already done their press conference and spoke in their native tongue. So as Maurice talked, twice a guy came up to the table, grabbed a mic and walked away. Maurice noticed.
"My comments are so boring that I'm losing microphones here," he joked, drawing laughter from the crowd of both American and Finnish journalists. "It's going to be me and a chair here soon."