The Hurricanes’ offense has been rolling of late, but it will get one its better tests to date tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers at the RBC Center.
Fueled largely by two seven-goal outbursts over its last four games, Carolina now finds itself in second place in the Eastern Conference with 48 goals. The Canes have netted 21 of those over their last four games, with 11 different skaters scoring goals.
While the Canes played well enough to beat any team in their most lopsided victories over the New York Islanders and Edmonton, the Flyers will be an entirely different challenge.
“We’re not getting up 6-0 tonight,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, referring to the previous game’s outburst against Edmonton that ended with a 7-1 score. “That’s not going to happen.”
The Flyers have won six of their last seven games and currently rank second in the east. Their only blemish during that run came during their most recent contest - an overtime loss in Washington on Sunday.
While their physical defense always presents a challenge for Carolina, the Flyers have also been getting good goaltending from the surprising Sergei Bobrovsky, a 22-year-old who had not played a professional game in North America until this season. He has won eight of his first 11 games, posting a 2.19 goals-against average and .926 save percentage, and has made a case to keep his starting job even when former Hurricane Michael Leighton returns from back surgery in approximately two more weeks.
“It’s a perfect time for where we’re at as a team,” said Maurice of facing the Flyers. “We were pretty adherent to what we’re trying to do (against Edmonton), and now you play one of the elite teams in the NHL. The challenge is to do those things against a very good hockey team, and what they’ll do is give you a little better indicator of where you are with your game plan. “
Philadelphia has dominated the series against Carolina over the last five years, winning seven straight meetings and earning points over the last 16. The Hurricanes have not beaten the Flyers in regulation since Dec. 19, 2005.
The Hurricanes will have no lineup changes for tonight’s game, with Cam Ward starting his fifth consecutive game in goal. Joni Pitkanen and Brandon Sutter, who did not practice on Wednesday, are also expected to play.
For Philadelphia, James van Riemsdyk, the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 draft that sent Brandon Sutter to the Hurricanes at No. 11, has been a healthy scratch for the Flyers’ last two games. He has no goals and 4 assists this season, with Philadelphia media suggesting in recent days that he could be out again tonight.
When thinking of the Flyers’ most dangerous offensive weapons, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are the first two names to come to mind. While they’ve continued at their usual pace, 22-year-old Claude Giroux has joined them as a genuine threat. The right wing, who signed a three-year contract extension earlier this week, leads the team with 14 points and leads the NHL with 3 shorthanded goals.