The final home game of the calendar year is upon us.
This is the gameday hub, where you can find all the latest news and information related to tonight’s tilt between the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes in one handy location. Make this a regular stop throughout the day, as we update it with notes, videos, photos and more as puck drop draws near.
A preview of tonight’s game can be found below. The Canes will hold at 10:30 a.m. morning skate at PNC Arena, so check back here then for plenty more!Last updated: 4:30 p.m.
BEFORE THE FACEOFF4:30 p.m.
Amber Jaye sets the table for tonight's match-up between the Montreal Canadiens and your Carolina Hurricanes.
RINK REPORT4:00 p.m.
Go inside the locker room with Jordan Staal and Jiri Tlusty to hear about their returns to the ice.
JORDAN STAAL ACTIVATED12:30 p.m.
Activate: Jordan Staal. Debut sequence initiated.
It's officially official: Staal has been activated off injured reserve and will make his season debut tonight. The newsy details can be found here
Also, be sure to check out the background in the official Canes mobile app
for more Staal-related goodness.
LINEUP NOTES, TLUSTY & PETERS QUOTES12:15 p.m.
John-Michael Liles has flu-like symptoms and was held out of the morning skate, according to head coach Bill Peters. He's questionable for tonight. Otherwise, expect to see the defensive pairs listed below.
Cam Ward is the confirmed starter in net for the Canes, his 28th career appearance against Montreal. He is 15-9-3 with a 2.80 goals-against average against the Canadiens.
In addition to Jordan Staal returning to the lineup, Jiri Tlusty also gets back on the ice after missing seven games with an upper-body concern. He spoke to the media after the skate, and here's a sampling of what he had to say:On returning to the lineup:
"I'm excited to get back and play. ... It's never easy coming back from injuries, but we just have to do our best."On helping the offense:
"Goals are scored around the net. Carey Price is a good goalie, and we just have to be around him and give him a hard time seeing the puck."
Staal also spoke to the media, and this was the scene:
Finally, Peters held his usual post-skate pow-wow with the media, and the main topic of discussion was predictably centered around Staal.On Staal's return:
"He'll be a good boost of energy. ... I think he's anxious and nervous to a certain degree, too. He's a little tentative. That's a serious injury he's coming off of, and for the first few shifts, I'm sure he'll be sticking a toe in to test the waters, but after that I expect him to be fine."On why tonight is the night for Staal's debut:
"It's been so long it's not even funny. ... This is the right time to bring him back in this environment. Coming off the days off at Christmas, making sure he's been a part of our pregame skates for a while and part of our routine, there's nothing left to do other than play."On putting the Staal brothers on the same line:
"It's easier for the coach because now I just call a Staal line, and we don't get too many centers out there, so it will be simple for me."
CANES LINES: MORNING SKATE10:45 a.m.
Very similar to Sunday's practice, here's how the Canes lined up in today's morning skate:
E. Staal-J. Staal-Gerbe
Zach Boychuk looks to be the healthy extra up front. John-Michael Liles didn't skate this morning. We'll ask the head coach about that in just a bit.
J. STAAL, TLUSTY RETURN AS CANES HOST HABS6:00 a.m.
For a team that has scored just 16 goals in 12 games in December, getting Jordan Staal and Jiri Tlusty back in the lineup might be just what the doctor ordered for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Staal is set to make his season debut, having missed the team’s first 35 games with a fracture in his right fibula.
“I’ve been getting a little anxious the last few weeks, and I’m feeling comfortable on the ice,” Staal said after a contact-heavy practice on Sunday. “I’m just getting back to the speed of things.”
“It’s been a long wait, but he’s worked very hard,” head coach Bill Peters said. “We did a lot of battling today in general as a team, but we made sure Staalsy got some extra reps. He should be fine.”
Jordan is slated to begin the game centering his brother, Eric, and Nathan Gerbe on either side.
“It gives us some options down the middle,” Peters said. “We threw a bunch of line combinations up this morning, and we’ll see what we come up with.”
Tlusty has missed the team’s last seven games with an upper-body injury. He’s expected to slot in on a line with Victor Rask and Chris Terry. Once he gets back to game-speed, don’t be surprised to see Tlusty slide up to play with the brothers Staal.
“It would be nice to put Jiri there, but we don’t want to put Jiri and Jordan together both coming off injury,” Peters said. “I don’t know how much gas they’ll have in the tank tomorrow, for sure.”
Montreal has won five of its last six games, including a 4-1 victory over Carolina two weeks ago. That was a 2-1 game until late in the third period when Alex Galchenyuk netted two goals to finish off his first-career hat trick.
“It was a 2-1 game with about five minutes to go, and we gave up two late ones when we felt we were coming,” Peters said. “We want to start on time tomorrow, get a lead and play with a lead.”
The Canes are winners of three of 12 in the last month of the calendar year, but they have earned points in three of their last five games. In two of those games, they found the back of the net more than once.
“There’s a price you have to pay to score, and there’s a certain area you have to be willing to go to to score,” Peters said. “If you’re willing to do that, you’ll get rewarded.”
NOTES: Eric Staal will skate in his 800th career game tonight. He is a point-per-game player against the Canadiens with 37 points (18g, 19a) in as many games. … The Canes are 6-4-1 at home against Montreal since the start of the 2008-09 season.