The Carolina Hurricanes will close out their season series against the Buffalo Sabres tonight in Raleigh, the first of three straight home games for the Hurricanes.
Justin Peters will get his first start of the season for the Canes in net tonight, as Dan Ellis remains sidelined with illness.
“Petey is excited,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “We’re going to go with his energy and give him an opportunity to jump right in and play.”
Following the end of the work stoppage and the recall of Ellis, Peters started 16 of the Charlotte Checkers’ next 20 games and was named to the Western Conference’s starting lineup in the AHL All-Star Classic. In total, Peters has logged a 22-12-1 record. He ranks second in the AHL in shutouts (6), fourth in wins (22), seventh in save percentage (.921) and ninth in goals-against average (2.29).
“Players' careers are always a learning curve, every experience you have. Goaltending takes the most time to mature. He’s gone through some ups and downs, opportunities early on when he wanted to be here and it didn’t happen, and now’s his chance,” Muller said. “He’s had a great first half down in Charlotte and playing well recently, so he should have confidence, and he should look at the things leading up to now, all the experiences that should make him go out, play hockey, get the job done and help our hockey club win hockey games.”
Jeff Skinner, who in his rookie year roomed with Peters, shouted, “Pete Dawg, woof woof!” when he stepped onto the ice for the morning skate. While the circumstance of Peters’ arrival in Raleigh isn’t ideal, Skinner was glad to see the well-deserved call-up.
“He really helped me out. It was my first time moving really far away from home,” Skinner said. “To have a guy like him looking out for me and guiding me through the season really helped. It’s nice to see a guy like that get rewarded.”
And as far as goaltender roommates go, Peters was pretty normal, Skinner said.
“All three of our goalies are pretty normal,” he said. “You hear some crazy stories about some pretty weird goalies, but we’re lucky to have some pretty normal ones.
“He gets fired up sometimes. He’s got a bit of a temper, but other than that, if you stay on his good side, it’s pretty normal,” Skinner joked.
Peters joins a contingent of players who have spent time in Charlotte this season, including Riley Nash, Drayson Bowman, Bobby Sanguinetti, Justin Faulk, Tim Wallace and Brett Sutter.
“You look at guys that have had the opportunity and taken advantage of it,” Muller said. “Now it’s Peters. You’ve just got to go, believe in yourself and be confident. We’re not asking for anyone to be heroes or superstars. Just go out, fit in, do your job and we’ve got to win as a group of 20 guys right now.
“He’s coming into a positive atmosphere, too, after the last few games,” Muller continued. “The team’s winning, and that helps him, as well.”
The Hurricanes are looking to extend their winning streak to a season-long four games tonight against Buffalo, the last of three against the Sabres. The Canes won both previous meetings between the two teams this season, 6-3 and 3-1, respectively, played on back-to-back nights in late January. Buffalo enters tonight’s tilt riding a four-game point streak, having won three of their last four.
In their last three games, the Canes have averaged 4.33 goals per game, bolstered by their top-line production. Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin have combined for 17 points (7g, 10a) in the last three games. On the season, the trio has collectively registered 62 points (27g, 35a) and a plus-45 rating. All three players ranked tied for second in the league in plus/minus at plus-15 coming into tonight’s game.