Whenever the Hurricanes and Rangers meet, it always seems to be a physical affair. No one is expecting any different tomorrow night.
It used to be that the Canes, who aren’t necessarily built for that style of play, would have a tough time matching the aggressiveness of certain opponents. An example that immediately comes to mind is a game that took place the day after Christmas last season, which saw the team leave Madison Square Garden both insulted (a 4-2 loss) and injured (Matt Cullen suffered his well-documented concussion, Andrew Ladd’s orbital bone was broken in a post-whistle scrum), prompting enforcer Wade Brookbank’s first recall to Carolina.
Things were a little different in the most recent meeting between Eastern Conference playoff challengers, a 3-0 win for the Canes on March 9. The Rangers, led by Sean Avery, came out banging as usual with 30 hits, but the Hurricanes were able to respond nicely with 27 of their own.
“I think we’ve found a way to answer whatever level of physicality we find in a game,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “I don’t think we’re going out there and trying to run teams out of the building, but (the most recent game in) Jersey wasn’t an overly physical game, then it built and we responded to that."
“I think (Thursday) will be a physical game with high tempo and good energy,” said Chad LaRose, who isn’t the biggest player on the team but never backs down from such a challenge. “They’re a good team and they’re big and physical too, so it makes us aware and makes our physicality come out.”
In Tuomo Ruutu (11th), Erik Cole (30th) and Tim Gleason (33rd), the Hurricanes actually have three players among the lead leaders in hits. Although it’s admittedly an imperfect and subjective stat, those rankings probably don’t come as a surprise to those who watch Carolina play on a regular basis.
Continuing to stay in the game from a physical standpoint should be a key to beating the Rangers, which would be another huge step towards the playoffs.
“I think physicality is huge for both teams,” said Gleason. “Especially for us on home ice to get the crowd behind us to gain momentum and go from there.”
Thursday practice notes:
- Still no Matt Cullen at today’s practice. Scott Walker had his second consecutive day going through a lengthy session with the full team, and remains a post-morning-skate decision for tomorrow. Even after losing four teeth during today’s practice (can this guy catch a break?), Walker stayed out and finished the session.
“They weren’t real, so he wasn’t in too much pain,” said Maurice. “He was disgusted more than anything else.”
Maurice said that the likely rough nature of tomorrow’s game as mentioned above would not be a deterrent in Walker’s return.
“When Scotty goes back into the lineup, we will have done all we can because he pronounced himself ready to play two weeks ago,” said Maurice. “We’ve skated him and we’ve over-tested him. He wanted to play in the Washington game in Washington (on March 14), so we’ve felt him out a while.”
- Tim Conboy was back with the forwards today after practicing with the defensemen yesterday. Maurice said yesterday that he moved the natural defenseman back to the blueline so that he could have an even number of defensemen (eight) to make running drills a less-complicated process, and that he did not plan to make a lineup change.