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GAME NOTES: Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers

by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes

DEFEND THE NET, DEFEND THE CUP

By Paul Branecky

Game Notes

Prior to the Hurricanes recent three game road trip, Head Coach Peter Laviolette had put the emphasis on tightening up defensively. And with good reason - the Hurricanes had given up at least four goals in four straight games - all losses.

Since then, the team has won three of four with a common trend to be found in all the victories. In wins over Montreal, Boston and Los Angeles, the team has given up no more than two goals. That has allowed them to get wins in games where the offense isn't as explosive, such as the 2-1 wins over the Canadiens and Kings.

The defense was especially good in Tuesday's home win over Los Angeles, in which the Hurricanes gave up only 22 shots, with 10 of those coming in the first two periods combined. Not many of those were great scoring chances either, with goaltender Cam Ward needing only to make a few good saves.

"Last night we were tight," said Laviolette. "We only gave up eight chances, which may be our lowest total of the year. I still remain convinced that our team tries on offense, but in the playoffs and down the stretch, you've got to play good defense and you've got to have good goaltending. I do think we've tightened it up and played better."

Excluding the first period of the game in Minnesota where the Hurricanes allowed four quick goals, the Hurricanes have only allowed five in their last 11 periods. Compare that to the seven goals they allowed against Washington in one game just a few weeks ago.

The Hurricanes' newfound stinginess couldn't come at a better time considering their precarious position near the red line that separates the playoff teams from the outsiders. After winning on Tuesday, the Hurricanes jumped Montreal to move to 7th place.

According to defenseman David Tanabe, who also chipped in offensively with two assists against the Kings, the key to limiting their opponents' chances is getting contributions from everyone on the team.

"I thought defensively we played really well last night," he said. "A lot of it was a team effort, not just from the back end but collectively. I felt like we came out and we were ready to play."

Coach Laviolette agreed, stressing that good defense doesn't always start in the defensive zone.

"I think it's the way you check in the neutral zone, the way you block shots, the commitment you have to blocking shots, the way we were diving [to block them] in Montreal, and the urgency that's needed for those points. Those things go hand-in-hand to helping your goaltender."

Speaking of goaltending, the improved play of Ward has also been a key factor. When the opposition has gotten decent chances, he has been there to make the necessary saves. The only thing preventing him from getting the shutout against Los Angeles was a tricky power-play deflection that he didn't have much of a chance on.

"We need everybody to step up, but you always need your goaltending to step up, and he's doing that," said Laviolette. "I think he proved last year in the playoffs how competitive he is and how cool and collected he is when things are on the line, and I think we're at that stage right now."

Look for the Carolina defense to be focused Thursday on three dynamic New York Rangers forwards - Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander and Martin Straka, who are all in the top 20 in NHL scoring. Also, although his goal-scoring pace has slowed from the beginning of the season, Brendan Shanahan remains one of the biggest power play threats in the league.

Former Hurricane and current Rangers backup goaltender Kevin Weekes will likely not be in the lineup after a reported calf injury he picked up in practice Tuesday. That means Henrik Lundqvist will certainly play in his 21st consecutive game on Thursday. The last time he had a night off was December 21st.

After being briefly reunited with Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward at the White House a few weeks ago, the Hurricanes will again see their former teammates when they come to town with the Rangers.

While happy to see his old buddies, defenseman Mike Commodore says not to expect the pleasantries to carry over on the ice.

"It's nice to play against those guys," he said. "And hopefully we'll stick it to them tomorrow."

KEN PRESTON

Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers
Thursday, Feb. 15, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
RBC Center * Raleigh, NC
Hurricanes: 29-23-7 (65 pts.) 3rd Southeast Division
Rangers:
27-24-5 (59 pts.), 4th Atlantic Division

TOMORROW’S GAME
The Carolina Hurricanes look to grab their fourth win in five games as the New York Rangers visit the RBC Center for the second game of a two-game home stand for the Hurricanes (7 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network). Carolina scored a 2-1 win against Los Angeles on Tuesday to take its record to 3-1-0 in the last four games, the lone blemish being a 5-4 loss at Minnesota on Saturday in the final game of a three-game road trip. The Hurricanes will travel to Montreal on Friday in advance of a Saturday night showdown against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network).

The Hurricanes (59 games played, 65 points) enter Thursday’s play one point behind Tampa Bay (58, 66) for second place in the Southeast Division, with Atlanta (60, 69) leading the division.

MILESTONE WATCH

  • Right wing Justin Williams will play his 400th NHL game with his next game played
  • Captain Rod Brind’Amour is two goals shy of 400 for his NHL career

CURRENT STREAKS

  • Left wing Ray Whitney has points in five straight games (2/3-2/13: 5g, 5a) and goals in three straight (2/8-2/13: 5g, 3a)
  • Captain Rod Brind’Amour has points in five straight games (2/3-2/13: 2g, 6a) and assists in four straight (2/6-2/13: 1g, 6a)
  • Goaltender Cam Ward has started five straight games (2/3-2/13) and recorded wins in his last three decisions (2/6-2/13: 3-0-0)
  • Right wing Scott Walker has points in two straight games (2/10-2/13: 1g, 1a)

Television: FSN South (Hurricanes LIVE begins at 6:30 p.m.; TWC Raleigh Durham ch. 50; DirecTV ch. 633; Dish ch. 444)

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

  • Left wing Ray Whitney has earned points in 14 of Carolina’s last 16 games, scoring 10 goals and earning 14 assists (24 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 3-1-0 (27 games; games 56-82).

  • While the Hurricanes have won just four games in their last 11 outings, the team has won three of its last four games and earned points in 11 of its last 16 games, going 8-5-3 since Jan. 6, and earning 19 of a possible 32 points in that span, and climbed to within four points of first place in the Southeast Division with a game in-hand on division-leader Atlanta.

  • The Rangers have not scored a win at the RBC Center since Dec. 31, 2002, going 0-5-0 and being outscored 21-10 in their last five visits to Raleigh.

  • This season, Carolina’s penalty kill has gone 237-for-278 (85.3%) in 55 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: 15-10-4
CAROLINA ON THE ROAD: 14-13-3
CAROLINA ON THE POWER PLAY: 54-of-337 (16.0%)
CAROLINA SHORTHANDED: 255-of-306 (83.3%)

INJURY REPORT

  • Winger Erik Cole, lower body, day-to-day, missed two games
  • Left wing Cory Stillman, knee, injured reserve, missed three games

HURRICANES PRACTICE SCHEDULE

DECEMBER
Practice Type
Time
Location
Thurs., Feb. 15
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Fri., Feb. 16
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Sat., Feb. 17
Pregame Skate
11:30 a.m.
Bell Centre, Montreal
Sun., Feb. 18
Off
-
-
Mon., Feb. 19
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
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

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

AGAINST THE RANGERS
Thursday’s game marks the third of four regular-season meetings between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers this season. The teams first met this season at the RBC Center on Nov. 15, a 2-1 Hurricanes win. The Rangers scored a 4-0 shutout win against Carolina at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 21 in the teams’ most recent meeting. Last season, Justin Williams led the Hurricanes with five points (3g, 2a) in the four-game set against the Rangers, while Michael Nylander paced New York with seven points (4g, 3a). The Hurricanes took three of the four games between the clubs last year, dropping just the Nov. 19 match up at MSG 4-3. Carolina holds a 42-45-7 all-time record against the Rangers, with a 27-16-3 home record and a 15-29-4 record at the Garden.

SCORING LEADERS AND GOALTENDERS

CAROLINA HURRICANES
NEW YORK RANGERS
Skaters
GP
G
A
PTS
Whitney
59
26
42
68
Brind'Amour
55
16
47
63
Williams
59
29
25
54
Skaters
GP
G
A
PTS
Jagr
56
21
48
69
Straka
56
26
36
62
Nylander
53
18
42
60
Goaltenders
GP
GAA
W-L
SV %
Ward
46
2.88
24-14-6
.899
Grahame
16
3.10
5-9-1
.891
Goaltenders
GP
GAA
W-L
SV %
Lundqvist
45
2.65
23-18-3
.907
Weekes
14
3.39
4-6-2
.879
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