With Ward Out, Grahame is Ready for the Challenge
As noticeable as Cam Ward's absence was from Monday's practice, it was his replacement in net that drew the most attention.
Rather than practice with only one goalie, the Hurricanes invited Tripp Tracy, a former goaltender at Harvard and current color commentator for the team, down to the ice to participate in drills.
Given the scoring problems the Hurricanes have had lately, Tracy had his hands full with a number of offensive-minded exercises.
"I like to think I have a competitive nature, and that's the only thing that got me through that today," he said. "They tried to get me to stay for extra drills, but chances of that happening were slim to none."
Tracy did make a handful of very good saves, each of which was met with unusually loud cheering from players and coaches alike. However, considering coach Laviolette's summary of how Tracy looked, don't expect him to be John Grahame's backup now that Ward will be sidelined indefinitely with a laceration above his knee.
"I think he was tired," said Laviolette with a grin.
While the Hurricanes will likely make a move to call up Justin Peters from Albany or Craig Kowalski from Florida to be the temporary backup, John Grahame is the man for now. Considering his strong play of late, including stopping all 13 shots he faced on Sunday in relief of Ward before losing in a shootout, that's something that all involved feel comfortable with. "It's great," said Grahame of playing in more games. "As a competitor and as an athlete you want that. This is a fun time to play, when there's something on the line and there's something to play for. That's what you play sports for, and that's what you're a competitor for."
Laviolette has always had great faith in Grahame, dating back to the championship they won together in Providence of the American Hockey League. That faith has continued through their time together with the United States national team and up until this season.
"He wants to be the guy," said Laviolette. "He's never been happy not getting enough games. I think he's played well. Even when Cam was getting a share of the games there, I still think he played well."
As Grahame starts playing more games, he will be aided by the fact that he's been "the guy" as recently as last season when he started 57 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the regular season and four in the playoffs.
"Every little bit of experience you have, you draw upon those experiences and just take it from there," said Grahame. "If you were jumping in your first game in the NHL and had to do it, it might be a little bit of a different situation. Having a little bit of experience, I'm definitely ready for the challenge."
|Cory Stillman |
The first step of that challenge is the upstart Florida Panthers, who don't seem to realize that they traded away three of their roster players, Gary Roberts, Todd Bertuzzi and Joel Kwiatkowski, away at the trade deadline. They are 7-1-2 over their last 10 games and, while sitting only five points back of the Hurricanes, still consider themselves playoff contenders.
"You're going to see a hard game," said Hurricanes left wing Cory Stillman. "They've been playing well as of late. It's not going to be a pretty game. You're going to have to battle and win battles, get pucks deep and if you've got an opportunity you need to capitalize on it."
"I expect a tremendous hockey game from them," said Laviolette. They're beating everybody. They're out-shooting teams and out-chancing them. We're going to have to be ready and sharp."
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
Tuesday, March 13, 7 p.m. (ET)
RBC Center * Raleigh, NC
Hurricanes: 34-28-8 (76 pts.) 3rd Southeast Division; 9th Eastern Conference
Panthers: 29-27-13 (71 pts.), 4th Southeast Division; 13th Eastern Conference
*Standings through NHL games of March 11
The Carolina Hurricanes begin a two-game home stand on Tuesday against Southeast Division rival Florida (7 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network). This marks the first of three contests between the teams in the Hurricanes’ final 12 regular-season games. Following Tuesday’s game, the Hurricanes will prepare to host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday (7:30 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network) in the first game of a home-and-home set between the clubs that will conclude Saturday in New Jersey.
- Goaltender John Grahame played his 200th NHL game at NYR (3/11)
- Defenseman David Tanabe is one game shy of 300 Hurricanes games played
- Defenseman Glen Wesley is two assists shy of 400 for his NHL career
- Captain Rod Brind’Amour has points in three straight games (3/4-3/11: 1g, 2a)
- Right wing Justin Williams has goals and points in two straight games (3/9-3/11: 2g, 0a)
AGAINST THE PANTHERS
Tuesday marks the sixth of eight 2006-07 regular-season meetings between the Hurricanes and the Panthers, the first of three meetings between the division rivals in Carolina’s last 12 regular-season games. The teams will round-out their season series with two April contests, April 1 at Florida and April 7 in Raleigh.
The teams last met on Jan. 16 at Florida’s BankAtlantic Center, a 3-2 overtime win for Carolina. On Jan. 11 at the RBC Center, the Hurricanes Carolina scored six goals in the third period for a 6-4 come-from-behind win. The Hurricanes won both ends of a home-and-home set against Florida that book-ended the NHL’s two-day holiday break, taking a 3-2 overtime win at BankAtlantic Center on Dec. 23, and a 4-2 win at the RBC Center on Dec. 26. The Panthers won the teams’ first meeting this season by a 6-3 score at BankAtlantic Center on Oct. 11.
Last season the Hurricanes posted a 6-1-1 record in eight games against the Panthers, and went 4-0-0 in the teams’ four meetings at the RBC Center. Eric Staal led all scorers with 11 points (4g, 7a) in the eight-game season series, while Olli Jokinen posted 10 points (5g, 5a) for Florida. The Hurricanes hold a 30-21-12-1 all-time record against the Panthers, with a 19-9-3 home mark and an 11-12-9-1 record in South Florida.
Television: FSN South (Hurricanes LIVE begins at 6:30 p.m.; TWCable Ch. 50, DishNetwork Ch. 446, DirecTV Ch. 633)
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
- The Hurricanes enter Tuesday’s NHL action with 76 points and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Carolina is tied in points with the eighth-seeded New York Rangers, but finds itself on the wrong side of a head-to-head tiebreaker. The Hurricanes are currently two points behind the seventh-ranked New York Islanders, one point head of Toronto and two points ahead of Montreal in the very tight race for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
- 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 8-6-1 (27 games; games 56-82).
- While the Hurricanes have won just nine games in their last 22 outings, the team earned points in 17 of its last 27 games, going 13-10-4 since Jan. 6, and earning 30 of a possible 54 points in that span.
- Florida has not won at the RBC Center since Dec. 6, 2002, a span of 10 games that has seen the Panthers earn just one point, a 2-2 tie on Oct. 13, 2003.
- The Hurricanes’ penalty kill has allowed just one power-play goal in the last 10 games, going 37-for-38 since Feb. 17
CAROLINA AT HOME: 17-13-4
CAROLINA ON THE ROAD: 17-15-4
CAROLINA ON THE POWER PLAY: 57-of-385 (14.8%)
CAROLINA SHORTHANDED: 292-of-347 (84.2%)
- Defenseman Bret Hedican, lower body, day-to-day, missed four games