Coach Peter Laviolette confirmed this morning that Matt Cullen, Joni Pitkanen and Brandon Sutter will all be back in the lineup tonight against Washington – a big boost as the Canes try to reclaim sole possession of the Southeast Division lead.
”We’ve been short on numbers, so it will be good to get a full lineup back in there,” said Laviolette. “Especially up front, it gives us more depth at center and more depth to the forwards.”
None of the returning players were available for last week’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Washington, with the Canes will try to avenge tonight at the RBC Center. Other than the last few minutes of that game, Laviolette doesn’t see much his team needs to do differently this time around..
He was satisfied with the way his team had played until Alex Semin’s shot took an unlucky deflection of Niclas Wallin’s skate and into the net with just over two minutes left. Even though the Capitals had tied it up, it wasn’t a glaring defensive breakdown that led to the goal.
It was after the Capitals tied it that things started to slip away.
“They just stole the momentum,” said Laviolette
At that point the Hurricanes, suddenly on their heels against a rejuvenated Washington team playing at home, may have gotten away from the things that had given them the lead up until that point – things that they’ll try to do again tonight.
”If you back off thinking you’re going to play it safe, you’re going to find out that you’ve given up your zone too much and you’re giving up too much ice time in your own end,” said Laviolette. “I think being aggressive in our system and being aggressive defensively is one of the keys to trying to shut them down.”
No Sergei Fedorov tonight for Washington, which is a break for the Canes. We discussed his resurgence with the Capitals a bit in our last podcast – even though he looked like he might be done a few years ago, he seems to be back now. Shaone Morrisonn is also out, and Brent Johnson looks to start opposite Michael Leighton in goal.
Update: If tonight's lineups are any indication, Dwight Helminen will be reassigned to Albany before the game. While he's played well, there's no more room at center with Cullen and Sutter back. Patrick Dwyer will play wing with Sutter on the fourth line and kill penalties.