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Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Sabres

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
After Tuesday night’s loss to the New York Islanders that saw the Carolina Hurricanes surrender the lead late in the third period and lose in a shootout, head coach Kirk Muller knows there is still work to be done.

Michael Smith
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A couple of days of hard-working practices later and an overall loose morning skate today, the Canes will look to correct the errors in their game in search of their 14th win this season.

Muller knows he won’t see a complete turnaround over night. It’s a work-in-progress but one he is happy to accept.

“It all starts in practice. It’s habits of wanting to come every day, putting the work in and committing to the system. With that part, we’ve been happy,” he said. “The results aren’t there yet. On the positive side, I see areas where we’re going in the right direction. I believe in that. We’ve got a great staff, and we’ve got to keep pushing them everyday.”

Tonight, the Canes will see a push-back from a struggling Buffalo Sabres team that has lost five straight games on the road. Their win at home against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday was just their second win in eight games.

But, as the Canes learned the hard way on Tuesday, that’s not to say the Sabres will be an easy opponent. Assuming their top line stays together, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville will be a formidable task for Brandon Sutter’s line. That threesome has combined for 103 points; Pominville is the team’s leading scorer with 40 points (13g, 37a). He also scored Buffalo’s lone goal in their 1-0 win over the Hurricanes on Nov. 18.

Jhonas Enroth has given the Hurricanes fits. In two career games (both wins), he’s stopped 69 of 70 shots, good for a 0.49 goals against average and a .986 save percentage. Head coach Lindy Ruff has said he is going to ride goaltender Ryan Miller as the team tries to climb back into the playoff picture, so the Canes will likely avoid Enroth tonight. Miller is just four wins shy of breaking Dominik Hasek’s club win record of 234.

The Canes, however, have had success against Buffalo this season. On Oct. 14 at the First Niagra Center, Carolina earned a 4-3 win, scoring three of their four goals on special teams. The first goal, eventually given to Alexei Ponikarovsky, was scored just as a Hurricanes’ power play concluded. Over its last three games, the Canes are 3-for-8 on the power play, including a strong 2-for-4 showing in Tampa Bay on Dec. 31.

As expected, the Hurricanes lines remained the same in the skate this morning. (For a full list of the lines, click here.) Recalled yesterday, Brett Sutter centered Anthony Stewart and Andreas Nodl on the fourth line. The defensive pairings remained the same, as well, and Cam Ward is expected to start in net.

Patrick Dwyer skated today and has been cleared for contact. Muller said Dwyer could be back in the lineup as early as tomorrow night in Nashville. Jeff Skinner also skated, but he is still wearing the non-contact jersey.

The challenge for the Hurricanes tonight will be to maintain the compete level that Muller wants to see. They’ve been able to do this with some success at home recently, and now they will want to see the results come more consistently.

 “You’ve got to implement the mental fact that losing is not acceptable,” Muller said. “We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve fallen by one. We’ve had the lead and we’ve given it up. The mentality that it’s all about winning – we’ve got to get hungrier, we’ve got to get feistier, we’ve got to be harder to play against.”

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