Marc-Andre Bergeron was preparing to face the Florida Panthers tonight in Tampa Bay.
Instead, he’ll be on a plane to Raleigh to suit up for the Carolina Hurricanes against another Southeast Division rival, the Washington Capitals.
According to head coach Kirk Muller, Bergeron, who will wear No. 47, is expected to be in the lineup.
“He’s a veteran guy, and I’ve worked with him before. We’ll simplify it at the beginning,” Muller said. “He has enough base and hockey sense to jump in and feel comfortable.”
Bergeron, 32, spent the 2009-10 season with the Montreal Canadiens when Muller served as an assistant coach. In 60 games, Bergeron posted seven power-play goals and a career second-best 34 points (13g, 21a).
“I’m familiar with him from being with him in Montreal, and we’re bringing him in for the same reason as there: his specialty is the power play,” Muller said. “He has a cannon, and it doesn’t matter what system you have, it’s just a matter of shooting the puck here tonight.”
The Hurricanes’ power play is 0-for-11 in their last two games and 16-for-126 (12.7 percent) on the season, which ranks last in the NHL. Despite the effort level being present on the power play in Toronto and Winnipeg, the execution has been lacking for a large majority of this season.
“It really just coincides with five-on-five hockey. There’s a compete level that you have to do on the power play,” Muller said. “You still have to win battles, face-offs and get those second and third efforts.
“Last night, the execution wasn’t there. We’ve got to be consistent on our work ethic and outwork the PK.”
Where Bergeron, who has logged a goal and four assists in 12 games this season, fits into the Canes’ lineup remains unknown. Muller said the team will make final lineup decisions after warm-ups.
Goaltender Dan Ellis will get the nod in net. Ellis missed three games last week with a leg laceration and served as the back-up to Justin Peters on Monday in Montreal. Ellis is 4-5-1 on the season with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
Tuomo Ruutu will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury, according to Muller.
Tonight’s game marks the fourth of five meetings between the Canes and Capitals this season. After topping the Caps 4-0 in Washington, D.C., on March 12, the Hurricanes dropped a disappointing 3-2 decision at home two days later. The deflating loss, in which the Canes saw a 2-0 first-period lead disappear in the final 40 minutes, began a seven-game winless stretch that Carolina snapped Saturday in Winnipeg.
And even with last night’s 4-1 defeat in Montreal, the Hurricanes aren’t panicking. Time and games are still in their favor.
“We’re not in the do or die mentally. We’re going after consistency,” Muller said. “Quite frankly, we need more support from our support cast. The production from our D and bottom six is not there.
“When we get the compete level and focus like that on a consistent basis, that’s when you’ll see our team move along in the right direction again.”