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Forward Lines Will Stay Fluid

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Although Matt Cullen did not practice today, par for the course during this first round series, the forward lines at today’s practice were the same as the altered units that finished Thursday’s Game 5.

Paul Branecky
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Eric Staal was centering Ray Whitney and Chad LaRose, while Dwight Helminen (filling in for Cullen, who will play tomorrow night) was between Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole. – Depth Chart

It’s a little strange to see those combinations after the team’s scoring units had been basically set in stone for much of the Hurricanes’ late-season run. However, due to the way the players have been adhering to the team’s system, Coach Paul Maurice feels he can move players around – even in the middle of games – without missing a beat. 

If that proves to be successful, it should create match-up problems for the Devils, particularly when the Canes are at home.

“I think you’ll see different looks,” said Maurice. “We’ve gotten ourselves to the point where we feel pretty comfortable that, even with changes, there’s not necessarily a chemistry loss and there’s a pretty good understanding of the structure of how we want to play, so you don’t lose any defensive presence with different lines.

“That being said, we liked the match-ups that we had at home, so you’ll probably see versions of everything that you’ve seen for the last five or six games.”

Sergei Samsonov, who did not play in Game 5 due to injury, did not practice today. Jussi Jokinen again took his spot on the left side of Rod Brind’Amour and Scott Walker.  

“Sammy felt good today, but we won’t know until tomorrow,” said Maurice. 

With seven healthy bodies, the team’s defensive unit has had a different look for nearly every game of the series, and tomorrow could be no different. Frantisek Kaberle was paired with Brett Carson of the “black ace” group, suggesting he may be the odd man out on the Canes’ blue line. Anton Babchuk, who sat out Game 5 as a healthy extra, was paired with Niclas Wallin today.

On the Devils side, the latest from Coach Brent Sutter is that injured players Jamie Langenbrunner and Bryce Salvador are day-to-day and may or may not play. However, one report, citing sources, says that Langenbrunner, the team's captain, will in fact suit up. Stay tuned on that.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Bill Cowher, a Raleigh resident and friend of Canes Associate Head Coach Ron Francis, was on hand to watch this morning’s practice. Cowher sounded the RBC Center’s hurricane warning siren prior to Game 3 – a role that will be filled by Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith on Sunday night.

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