NEW YORK RANGERS
JANUARY 22, 7:00 p.m.
TV - HTS / FOX SPORTS NET
RADIO - HURRICANES RADIO NETWORK
The Carolina Hurricanes will play host to the New York Rangers tonight at 7 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. The game is the second in a four-game season series and first in a home-and-home series between the two Eastern Conference teams. Carolina won the teams’ first match-up, 4-3 this season on December 27 in Raleigh.
Hurricanes captain Ron Francis carries a six-game points streak into the game having scored four goals and earned five assists since January 9. Francis is currently tied with Rangers captain Mark Messier for fourth place on the NHL all-time assists list with 1,113. In the Hurricanes last game Francis earned assists on both of Jeff O’Neill’s first period goals, his 26th and 27th assists of the season.
Carolina goaltender Arturs Irbe will start his 33rd consecutive game and appear in his 34th consecutive game for the Hurricanes tonight. Both marks are franchise records. Irbe set the mark for consecutive appearances during the 1999-2000 season when he appeared in 24 consecutive games.
Defenseman Kevin Hatcher will not play in tonight’s game. Hatcher is day-to-day with a knee injury.
Backup goaltender Jean-Marc Pelletier, who has spent the majority of this season with the Hurricanes’ IHL affiliate Cincinnati Cyclones, is not expected to fill in for Irbe anytime soon. Coach Paul Maurice says that Carolina’s schedule for the remainder of January allows him to use Irbe in every game. Still, Maurice says that Pelletier’s play has improved since joining the team on Jan. 17.
“He’s gotten stronger,” said Maurice. “His first practice here, he had been off of the ice for three days and we only had a 20 minute shoot-around. Since we have been playing every second day, we really haven’t had a 45 minute to an hour practice where he can focus on different kinds of shots—power-play shots, 5-on-5 stuff and 3-on-3 drills. Mostly what he’s seeing right now are 1-on-0s, 2-on-1s. That’s not always a really good indicator of what a goaltender can do but I will say that, from that first day, he looks a lot more comfortable here. He’s more relaxed in the net. He’s big. He’s a big man. When you watch Archie play every night you look down to the other end and there’s a big, big difference in size.”
Maurice says that goaltender Tyler Moss will return to the team in early February and will be expected to play as the Hurricanes face long road trips and more back-to-back situations than they have in January. Moss was assigned to Cincinnati on Jan. 17 to gain playing time to prepare for Carolina’s tough February schedule. In three games with the Cyclones, Moss has played three games, posted a 3.21 goals against average, an .894 save percentage and won two games.
“We play today and Wednesday. We get a day off on the 25th then we play four games and get a break for the All-Star Game. When we come back, Tyler will come back up and he will have to play. He played his third of three this weekend and I gather that he played well. He stopped 31 shots and they won the game. The best thing he can do is play a lot of games and really get his timing back.”