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Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Senators

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Though the circumstances coming into tonight’s game are similar to Wednesday’s, the Carolina Hurricanes hope the outcome is completely different.

Michael Smith
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For the second game in a row, the Canes face a team that played the night before. Coincidentally enough, the opponent was the Florida Panthers both times. Tonight, the Ottawa Senators come to Raleigh for the last game for either team before the Christmas weekend.

The Senators topped the Panthers 4-3 in overtime last night after Florida tied the game with just over a minute remaining in regulation. After having their plane de-iced for an hour on the tarmac in Ottawa, the Senators finally arrived at their Raleigh hotel this morning at 4 a.m.

Even still, Tuomo Ruutu said the Canes can’t think about that.

“It doesn’t really matter what they do, if they played or not,” he said. “It’s our home ice right before Christmas. We need to leave everything out there and win.”

Head coach Kirk Muller doesn’t buy into the hype of back-to-backs.

“I’ve said all along that back-to-backs are overrated, truthfully,” he said. “Guys are in such great shape today, that … it’s more in the head than anything.

“We’ve got a jump on them, no question. They come in late and all that, but I don’t throw a lot of weight into the back-to-back thing.”

Wednesday night’s game might lend some credence to Muller’s theory. The Hurricanes seemed to have a few steps on a tired Coyotes team, as they led 3-1 in the second period. But Cal O’Reilly’s goal late in the period gave Phoenix life, and the Canes couldn’t hold on. Tonight, Carolina hopes for a different result.

Ottawa comes into tonight’s game with a three-game winning streak. In that stretch, they’ve scored 14 goals. They were also a perfect 2-for-2 on the power play last night against Florida.

Jason Spezza has been a Canes killer this season. He’s scored three of the team’s six goals (seventh team goal was a shootout goal) against Carolina. Spezza is also the Senators’ leading scorer at more than a point per game with 37 (12g, 25a) through 35 games.

Riley Nash, fresh off his NHL debut, and Tim Brent skated this morning with the Hurricanes. According to Muller, a decision on who plays will wait.

“We’ll see tonight,” he said. “That was [Brent’s] first practice, so we’ll see how he responds from a little push in skating today and decide tonight after warm-ups.”

Considering the situation – the last game before a short break and coming off a tough loss – expect the Canes to empty the tank and display a bit of resiliency. Ruutu believes that is no different from any other game.

“It should be the message every night,” he said. “You can’t look too far ahead.”

What the team will look forward too is a short, but sweet two-day Christmas break. A win would certainly lift spirits heading into the weekend and may provide a boost of momentum as the Canes look to close out December strong next week.

“It’s the last game for both teams before the break so I expect both teams to be going all out,” Muller said. “It should be a high-energized game.”

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