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Gameday: Streaking Canes Host Sliding Ducks

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes began their season-long, five-game homestand 10 days ago. At that time, they were sliding, having dropped five straight games and looking for something to help turn the tide.

Michael Smith
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A dramatic 2-1 overtime victory did the trick, and now they have strung together points in four straight games, securing seven out of a possible eight points. Tonight, the Canes will close out their homestand against the Anaheim Ducks.

“We want to get every point we can every game. We feel we’re capable of doing that each night,” forward Nathan Gerbe said. “Coming out tonight we have a real good team in Anaheim.”

The Ducks are on a skid of their own, having dropped two straight in the state of Florida, as they were outscored 8-3. Even still, they sit atop the Pacific Division at 15-5-1 (31 points), thanks in part to their nine-game point streak that preceded their recent slide.

“I’m sure they’re disappointed in their game last night, so they’ll be ready to go,” head coach Kirk Muller said.

But the focus is not on the opposite locker room.

“Our focus has to be that we’ve finally turned the corner and are playing some good hockey … so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to play a high-tempo game tonight,” Muller said.

“They’re going to be a hungry team, and they need to win,” Gerbe said. “You see teams like this all the time during the year, but it doesn’t matter. You just have to go out and play.”

The second line of Gerbe, Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer played a crucial role in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Colorado, shutting down the Avalanche’s top line while also contributing the team’s only two goals of the game.

That same effort will be required from the team as a whole tonight, as the Ducks rank fourth in the NHL with an average of 3.24 goals per game.

“What’s happening is the guys are buying into the fact that if we play well defensively, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win every night, and then it’s a matter of what you bring to the table consistently. We’ve been doing that,” Muller said. “We’ve been playing well and getting results with it, which is the key.

“It’s all starting to gel together, and they’re feeling it,” Muller continued. “It’s all momentum.”

In a lineup tweak, Radek Dvorak will not play tonight, despite taking the morning skate. He left Tuesday’s game with a lower-body injury and did not practice on Thursday. In his stead, Mike Komisarek will draw in as the seventh defenseman. He skated on the fourth line in practice on Thursday and has been a healthy scratch for the team’s last seven games.

“A big part of our success is we’ve had four lines participating,” Muller said Thursday after practice. “Sometimes you have to look at the vibe of the team and say, hey, [Komisarek] has come in and has done great things with our young guys. He hasn’t said boo, he works out with Roddy and he’s just been a perfect pro. There’s value to that. Sometimes you reward a guy for his commitment.”

Despite not skating the last two days, Mike Murphy will back up Justin Peters, who will make his ninth straight start in net. Peters has stopped 110 of the last 114 shots he has faced.

The Hurricanes are 8-3-2 at home all-time versus Anaheim, and the Canes have earned points in three of the last four games at PNC Arena.

“It’s been a good thing for us lately that we’re getting better starts,” Muller said. “We’re at home, we should have some good energy tonight and we should feel good about ourselves. We should try to go after the momentum of the game early on.”

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