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GAME NOTES: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Atlanta Thrashers

by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes

CANES AT THE CROSSROADS

By Paul Branecky

Game Notes

After Saturday night's win in Montreal, the Hurricanes currently find themselves in a very curious spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

The bad news is that seventh-place Carolina only has a one point cushion over the eighth and ninth-placed teams, and several others who have played fewer games could potentially overtake the Hurricanes.

The good news is that, under the right circumstances, Carolina could find themselves in a three-way tie for the Southeast Division lead with Atlanta and Tampa Bay after Tuesday night.

Make sense? Didn't think so.

"The fact that we're playing for our division still and still swinging, I think that that's a real positive, but we're by no means out of the woods," said Hurricanes Head Coach Peter Laviolette. "There's a good chance that one of the three (Carolina, Atlanta or Tampa Bay) could not make the playoffs, and that's just the reality of it because there's so much parity and there's so much competitiveness between the teams that are battling."

With a win at home against Atlanta on Tuesday night (7 p.m., Hurricanes Radio Network, TICKETS), the Hurricanes would move into a tie with the slumping Thrashers, who are just 2-7-1 in their last 10 games - a record that is tied for worst in the league during that span.

If Tampa Bay was to lose to Florida at the same time, all three teams would be even with 69 points. Tampa Bay would hold the tiebreaker and the conference's third seed by having played fewer games.

While the Hurricanes are paying a bit more attention to the standings these days, it's still up to them whether they want to be racing just to get into the playoffs or for the division lead and subsequent home-ice advantage in the first round.

"I think that we know that we have to win games," said defenseman David Tanabe. "Yeah, you're paying attention to what other teams are doing, but at the same token we control our own destiny, so right now we're just paying attention to what we're doing."

While also putting an emphasis on playing his own game, fellow blue-liner Mike Commodore admitted to taking an occasional glance at the Jumbotron during games.

"Yeah, I've been looking at [the scoreboards]," he said. "I look at it every time we're at the RBC there, we've got it up. But it's a logjam from third to twelfth. You put a good week together you can jump five or six spots, or the other way around. It's been a long year so far, but the playoffs pretty much start right now. We need to win games, and win most of them."

This week will be crucial to staying within the divisional race as the Hurricanes will play Atlanta again on Saturday. The Thrashers have had at least a share of the divisional lead since the first day of the NHL season in October.

Atlanta features traditional scoring threats Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk, who rank 5th and 6th in NHL goal-scoring with 33 and 32, respectively. Veteran Slava Kozlov has also been putting up the points and ranks 21st in NHL scoring, one place ahead of Kovalchuk in that category.

Unfortunately for the Thrashers, that is largely where their main scoring threat ends. Behind the big three, their next highest scorer is Glen Metropolit, who only has 28 points on the season. Only two teams in the entire league, Columbus and Philadelphia, who are at or near the bottom of their respective conferences, have a fourth-leading scorer with fewer points.

The Carolina power play, which went 2-2 against Montreal on Saturday, could also have a big night against Atlanta. The Thrashers are dead last in the league in penalty killing with a 77.3 success rate.

KEN PRESTON

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Atlanta Thrashers
Tuesday, Feb. 20th, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
RBC Center * Raleigh, NC.
Hurricanes: 30-24-7 (67 pts.) 3rd Southeast Division
Thrashers:
30-22-9 (69 pts.), 2nd Southeast Division

TOMORROW’S GAME
The Carolina Hurricanes return to the RBC Center on Tuesday to take on division rival Atlanta (7 p.m., Hurricanes Radio Network) in the first game of a two-game home stand. The game marks the first of two meetings between the Hurricanes and the Thrashers this week, as Carolina will travel to Georgia for a Saturday evening meeting at Philips Arena after entertaining Philadelphia at the RBC Center on Thursday. The Thrashers are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Southeast Division with 69 points with Carolina just two points behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

MILESTONE WATCH

  • Captain Rod Brind’Amour scored his 400th NHL goal with his second goal, Feb. 17 at Montreal
  • Defenseman Glen Wesley is two assists shy of 400 for his NHL career

CURRENT STREAKS

  • Goaltender Cam Ward has started seven straight games (2/3-2/17)
  • Right wing Scott Walker has points in four straight games (2/10-2/17: 1g, 3a) and assists in two straight (2/15-2/17: 0g, 2a)
  • Center Eric Staal has assists and points in two straight games (2/15-2/17: 1g, 3a)

Television: No Carolina telecast (Atlanta’s SportSouth telecast available via NHL Center Ice)

Radio: Hurricanes Radio Network – WWMY 102.9 FM (Raleigh – flagship), Pirate Radio – WGHB 1250 AM and WDLX 930 AM (Greenville, NC… check listings for games), News Talk Radio WFNC 640 AM (Fayetteville, NC… Saturdays and Sundays)
Internet: www.nhl.com, www.CarolinaHurricanes.com

CAROLINA NOTES

  • The Thrashers have lost four straight games and are 1-4-0 on their six-game road swing that ends on Tuesday in Raleigh. Atlanta posts an NHL-worst 2-7-1 record in its last 10 games and has gone 1-3-0 in four games against Carolina this season.

  • Left wing Ray Whitney has earned points in 15 of Carolina’s last 18 games, scoring 10 goals and earning 15 assists (25 points) dating back to Jan. 6. Whitney picked up multiple assists in four of those games, earning two helpers on Jan. 6 against the NY Islanders, Jan. 9 at Toronto and Feb. 8 at Boston, and three assists on Jan. 26 against Washington.

  • It is impossible to divide the 82-game NHL schedule into perfect thirds, but when looking at the first 27 games of the season, Carolina went 14-10-3. In the next 28 games (games 28-55), the Hurricanes posted a 12-12-4 record, and the team has started the final third of the season 4-2-0 (27 games; games 56-82).

  • The Hurricanes are 13-6-2 in 21 games against Southeast Division opponents this season. Last season, en route to its third division title in six years, the Hurricanes posted an 18-11-3 record against Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay and Washington.

  • This season, Carolina’s penalty kill has gone 240-for-284 (84.5%) in 57 games with Rod Brind’Amour in the lineup. It went 17-for-27 (63.0%) in the four games Brind’Amour missed in December.

CAROLINA AT HOME: 15-11-4
CAROLINA ON THE ROAD: 15-13-3
CAROLINA ON THE POWER PLAY: 56-of-342 (15.9%)
CAROLINA SHORTHANDED: 258-of-312 (82.7%)

INJURY REPORT

  • Left wing Cory Stillman, knee, injured reserve, missed five games

HURRICANES PRACTICE SCHEDULE

DECEMBER
Practice Type
Time
Location
Tues., Feb. 20
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Wed., Feb. 21
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Thurs., Feb. 22
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Fri., Feb. 23
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Sat., Feb. 24
Pregame Skate
11:30 a.m.
Philips Arena, Atlanta
Sun., Feb. 25
Team Practice
12:00 p.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Mon., Feb. 26
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Tues., Feb. 27
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Wed., Feb. 28
Pregame Skate
11:30 a.m.
ScotiaBank Place, Ottawa
Thurs., Mar. 1
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Fri., Mar. 2
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Sat., Mar. 3
Team Practice
10:30 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Sun., Mar. 4
None
-
-
Mon., Mar. 5
Off
-
-
Tues., Mar. 6
Off
-
-
Wed., Mar. 7
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Thurs., Mar. 8
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Fri., Mar. 9
Pregame Skate
11:30 a.m.
Verizon Center, Washington

*All times are local… Times and locations subject to change

AGAINST THE THRASHERS
Tuesday marks the fifth of eight 2006-07 regular-season meetings between the Hurricanes and the Thrashers, and the first of two games this week between the Southeast Division rivals. The Hurricanes took the teams’ first meeting at Atlanta on Oct. 13, a 4-3 regulation win on Ray Whitney’s last-second goal. Carolina and Atlanta went to overtime in their second meeting on Oct. 25 at the RBC Center before Hurricanes defenseman Anton Babchuk broke the 4-4 tie 1:11 into the extra frame. The Hurricanes scored a 5-2 win at Philips Arena on Nov. 1 before Atlanta took a 4-3 shootout win at the RBC Center on Jan. 13.

Last season, the Hurricanes posted a 4-4-0 record in eight games against the Thrashers, scoring two wins at home and two on the road, including one in overtime. Justin Williams (4g, 5a) and Rod Brind’Amour (1g, 8a) led all Hurricanes scorers in the eight-game season series while Ilya Kovalchuk paced the Thrashers with 12 points (9g, 3a). The Hurricanes post a 24-7-5-1 all-time record against the Thrashers, including a 13-4-2 home mark and a 11-3-3-1 record at Philips Arena.

SCORING LEADERS AND GOALTENDERS

CAROLINA HURRICANES
ATLANTA THRASHERS
Skaters
GP
G
A
PTS
Whitney
61
26
43
69
Brind'Amour
57
18
47
65
Staal
61
25
32
57
Skaters
GP
G
A
PTS
Hossa
61
33
41
74
Kozlov
60
20
41
61
Kovalchuk
61
32
28
60
Goaltenders
GP
GAA
W-L
SV %
Ward
48
2.91
25-15-6
.899
Grahame
16
3.10
5-9-1
.891
Goaltenders
GP
GAA
W-L
SV %
Lehtonen
52
2.91
25-18-8
.908
Hedberg
15
3.32
5-4-1
.878
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