FEBRUARY 18, 1:30 p.m.
TV – none
RADIO - HURRICANES RADIO NETWORK
RALEIGH (FEB. 18, 2001) -- Here we are, folks. Game 57 of the Carolina Hurricanes’ regular season schedule.
With 26 games remaining before the playoffs, the number in parenthesis beside a team’s name becomes more and more important. The Hurricanes have seen (9) next to their name in the standings for quite a while.
The number has seemed arbitrary and misleading given Carolina trailed its Eastern Conference rivals by between two and four points and played two fewer games. But, this week’s five games, beginning with today’s match-up against the Boston Bruins, will end that “games in hand” advantage.
The Hurricanes embark on a rigorous week where they will play five games in seven days between today and Saturday night. Luckily, the majority of the games will be played on home ice where Carolina is 14-10-3-0 on the season.
Carolina’s opposition during the upcoming span poses some problems, though. The Hurricanes are 5-2-2-2 this season against the teams they face this week – Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Jersey and Washington – and all but Atlanta appear to be headed for the playoffs.
Injuries to key players in the Carolina lineup do not help matters, most notably, goaltender Arturs Irbe whose groin strain may keep him off the ice for a game or two to come. Then again, he may start in net today against the Bruins -- a game-time decision.
The Hurricanes also miss forward Martin Gelinas, another player possibly returning to the lineup today. When Gelinas went down with a concussion and a knee injury at Los Angeles on Feb. 8, the team’s most physical line was broken apart.
The combination of Gelinas, center Rod Brind’Amour and rookie winger Shane Willis had scored 17 goals in 15 games before Gelinas was sidelined. Brind’Amour has managed to earn 3 assists with Rob DiMaio and Bates Battaglia each filling in for Gelinas but the line has lacked the physical presence Gelinas brought, especially in front of the net.
On Friday against the Phoenix Coyotes the Hurricanes missed their injured enforcer Darren Langdon, another groin injury victim. As the game turned physical following a David Tanabe power-play goal that was waived off, a fight might have added some fuel to the Carolina fire. Instead, Keith Tkachuk’s goal minutes later turned out to be the game-winner as Phoenix won back the two points it lost to the Hurricanes in overtime on Feb. 7.
Yes, this week is going to be tough. The Hurricanes have known that since they first saw the season’s schedule and, despite a few bumps and bruises, stand poised to move into playoff position.
Carolina Hurricanes Website Reporter Kyle S. Hanlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.