In game 82 of the 2010-11 season, the then already-playoff-bound Tampa Bay Lightning came to Raleigh to face off with the playoff-hungry Carolina Hurricanes in the season finale.
In order to reach the postseason, all the Canes had to do was win. Backed by a partisan home crowd in a do or die game against a familiar division opponent, what could go wrong?
A lot did. The Bolts thrashed the Hurricanes 6-2 in a game that just never felt right, even when Chad LaRose
brought the Canes within striking distance at 4-2 about midway through the third period.
Two days shy of exactly six months later, the two teams meet again in game one of the 2011-12 season. A fresh start. A clean slate.
The players – including the ones who weren’t here at the conclusion of last season – were clearly excited to get the season underway. The short skate this morning was vocal and quick-paced.
Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice was also visibly eager for the season to begin.
“This is exciting,” he said. “It’s funny. You almost forget about it. You know it’s going to be exciting, and then you get to that day and it’s Christmas Eve again. You’re just excited about the fresh start, and everybody’s optimistic and feeling good.”
In this morning’s brief skate, the Canes did not reveal any of their lines, but Maurice said they would start with the same combinations seen yesterday.
“I think we are set up to be good the way we are, and there are options to move people around to present a different look to different teams,” he said.
With nine defenseman on their active roster, three will sit tonight. Jamie McBain
, Derek Joslin
and Ryan Murphy
will be healthy scratches. With a back-to-back set, we might see one of those break into the lineup tomorrow.
“There are three guys that desperately want to get into the lineup,” Maurice said. “We want to encourage that competition. We’re starting the six players that we feel are best prepared today to be good tonight through their camps and through their body of work they’ve done over the course of their NHL careers.”
With the lineup set and the players and coaching staff ready, all that is left is to play the game. If you’re coming out to the game tonight, be sure to check out the number of pre-game festivities
going on in and around the RBC Center. There are some very special things planned before the face-off, which builds on the excitement already in place.
While a playoff berth isn’t directly on the line tonight, the stakes are still the same, as two points are up for grabs. Whether it’s game one or 82, those points are always valuable.
“Every game is big, but there’s something on this one,” Maurice said. “Opening Night – you want to get on that good feeling, that good roll. Playing the team that knocked you out, you have a little more bite in your step, and they’re aware of it. It’s going to be a great game tonight.”