With both teams carrying the play for prolonged spells, a genuine and mutual dislike brewing and overtime needed to settle things, Game 2 indicated that this should end up being quite a series.
It’s actually of the few across the league that are shaping up to be that way. Of all the series which have played two games, this is the only one that is tied 1-1. All the others have seen teams take 2-0 leads, with even the traditionally close 4/5 match-ups fairly one-sided at this point.
With the next two games at home and the momentum seemingly on their side, the Canes have a chance to follow the current NHL trend and create some distance between themselves and their opponent. However, the Devils have played extremely well in both games so far (with the possible exception of their power play in Game 2, although credit should go to Cam Ward and the Canes’ penalty kill for that), so wins should still be hard to come by.
Although the pressure isn’t necessarily on them to respond in the same way they had to after such a poor performance in Game 1, the Canes will still try to bring the physical intensity they showed in Game 2, although perhaps in a somewhat more controlled manner.
“That’s the challenge for us,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “We brought a lot of emotion into that game based on Game 1, and now we’ve got to settle into the series now and play as physically as we can, keeping in mind we’re not going out there to try to run the other team out of the building – we’re not built to do that.
“I think what [the physical play] did was allow to play a little stronger on the puck, where we were really struggling. We were the least-penalized team in the league over the regular season, and that’s usually an advantage for our team.”
With the Devils unlikely to waver much from their strong performance in both games, it’s certain the Canes will need every bit of the intensity that allowed them to win the last meeting.
“I think last game we realized what it takes,” said Tuomo Ruutu, who registered five hits in Game 2. “That was a close game that we were lucky to win in overtime, and I think we realized how hard we had to work just to even get there.”
The Devils will have a bit of a different look for the upcoming games at the RBC Center, as captain and first-line winger Jamie Langenbrunner has been officially ruled out with a somewhat mysterious lower body injury (aren’t they all mysterious at this time of year?). That will create some shuffling on New Jersey’s side, with someone like Brian Rolston or Brendan Shanahan likely to take his place among the top six forwards. Veteran Bobby Holik will most likely enter the lineup in a checking role.
There will be no lineup changes on the Carolina side. Matt Cullen did not practice today and was not available in the locker room after practice, but Maurice said that he is fine and will play tonight.