– Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!
This is the gameday hub, where you can find all the latest news and information related to tonight’s match-up between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning in one handy location. Make this a regular stop throughout the day, as we update it with notes, photos and more as puck drop draws near.
A preview of tonight’s game can be found below. The Canes, who have a morning flight down to Tampa Bay, will be on the ice at Amalie Arena for an 11:30 a.m. morning skate. As always, we’ll be rinkside to bring you any and all updates.Last updated: 12:30 p.m.
NOTES, QUOTES AND UPDATES FROM THE MORNING SKATE12:30 p.m.
Following an 8 a.m. flight, the Carolina Hurricanes were on the ice at Amalie Arena for an 11:30 a.m. morning skate.
Here's what the Canes will look like tonight, at least at puck drop:
Eric Staal will start tonight in Tampa Bay the way he finished on Tuesday night in New Jersey: on the wing.
"I talked to him today, and he looked good out there," head coach Bill Peters said. "He said he feels good, so he might slide back into the middle quick tonight, too. We ended the game with him on the wing in Jersey, and we'll start that way, watch and see what we see."
Cam Ward gets the nod in net for the Canes. He was the very tough-luck loser here just a couple of weeks ago, as he stopped 25 shots in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss.
Injured forwards Jordan Staal (leg) and Jiri Tlusty (upper body) took part in the morning skate, with each getting closer to returning to game action. Forward Andrej Nestrasil (upper body) met the team in Tampa Bay, and he skated briefly as the Canes wrapped up on the ice this morning. Alexander Semin (upper body) did not travel.
The Canes will be without assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour tonight.
"Just today. No big issue," Peters said. "A family commitment that has to be looked after."
I asked if Pete Friesen would run the forwards tonight in Brind'Amour's stead. "Not a chance," Peters quipped.
Here's more from Peters, who met with the media after the skate:
On the rust of three days off:
"I was pleasantly surprised this morning. I thought pucks would be flying all over the place, but guys executed well and had lots of jump and enthusiasm."On the unique challenges of flying the morning of a game:
"It's a different routine, right? You're so structured and routined throughout the year that any time you have a little wrinkle, it's different. But it's not the end of the world; we've all done it at some point. It's good because it gives the guys a little more time at home with the family and friends."On winning one before the Christmas break:
"It makes the flight home from Jersey better and the three days off better. You don't have to sit there and stew on a negative result. I thought we played well and deserved to get that one."On tonight's opponent:
"They're deep. ... They're going to be dictating match-ups a little bit here, and we'll balance off all four lines and play everybody. Coming off three days off, you have to get everybody involved in the game, and that's our plan going in."
CANES BACK IN ACTION IN TAMPA BAY6:00 a.m.
For the second time in just over two weeks, the Carolina Hurricanes will face off with an old Southeast Division rival in Tampa Bay.
In the first meeting on Dec. 11, the Lightning delivered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Canes. Tampa Bay’s two goals were scored on the ugliest of bounces – the first on a tap-in after a horrendous carom off a stanchion – and the game-winning tally slipped past Cam Ward off Ron Hainsey’s skate with just 30 seconds left in regulation.
“It hurts the most because it’s the most recent, right?” head coach Bill Peters said after that game, the fourth in a string of six consecutive defeats. “We had a chance to win a hockey game tonight, so it’s disappointing for sure.”
The Hurricanes have earned points in three of their last four games, the most recent being a 2-1 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Hainsey was credited with Carolina’s lone goal in regulation, and Chris Terry potted the shootout winner.
Though 13-4-1 at home, Tampa Bay is below .500 in their last 10 games at 4-5-1. The Lightning have won eight of the last nine meetings between the two teams.
Anton Khudobin finally posted his long-overdue first win of the season on Tuesday in New Jersey in a 2-1 shootout decision.
“It seemed like the hockey gods didn’t want to give me or us a win. Everything was against us,” he said after the game while sporting the fireman’s helmet. “I’m happy today that it finally happened. I thought it was never going to happen this year.”
Cam Ward manned the pipes in the team’s first trip to Tampa Bay, making 25 saves on 27 shots. His second-period save on Valtteri Filppula was one of his best of the season, as he sprawled across the crease to deny a rebound chance with his glove.
“Wardo played a great game,” Jeff Skinner said after the game on Dec. 11. “It’s tough to let him down like that.”
Brendan Woods made his NHL debut in New Jersey on Tuesday, and he was again recalled by Carolina yesterday afternoon. Alexander Semin missed the team’s last game with an upper-body injury, and Jiri Tlusty and Andrej Nestrasil remain on the shelf with upper-body concerns, as well.
NOTES: Nathan Gerbe is expected to skate in his 300th career game. … The Canes have already have five skaters make their NHL debuts this season, the second time that has happened since the 2008-09 campaign.