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Legace to Start Against Kings

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Just two days after signing him, the Carolina Hurricanes will hand new goaltender Manny Legace his first NHL start of the season Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Paul Branecky
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The game marks the first without the injured Cam Ward, and up until Tuesday’s practice it was uncertain who would start between Legace and Ward’s backup, Michael Leighton. Coach Paul Maurice said that both the opponent and the fresh enthusiasm from Legace were factors in his decision.

“He knows that conference very well and he knows their shooters,” said Maurice of Legace, who has made all 337 of his NHL appearances in the West, where the Kings call home. “I guess they could know him [too], but this is the kind of opportunity he was waiting for, he was hoping for and he was looking for. I do think the table is set for him to come in and play his best.”

Another factor was that Legace received more playing time with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves than Leighton has with Carolina, which may better prepare him for the upcoming contest. Legace has played six games, all of them starts, while Leighton has played three with only one start.

The move doesn’t necessarily indicate that the team prefers one goaltender over another for the term of Ward’s recovery from a leg laceration, which is expected to last 3-4 weeks from this past Saturday. Maurice said yesterday that he would give playing time to whichever one played well, meaning that Legace could either grab temporary hold of the starter’s position or leave a window for Leighton to start Friday’s game against the New York Islanders.

“We have thoughts on our goaltending, but with where we’re at, we’re not looking three weeks down the road here,” Maurice said. “We’re looking at tomorrow night.”

The coach added that he was feeling “pretty positive” about the status of Ray Whitney, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. Whitney practiced fully on Monday and Tuesday on a line with Matt Cullen and Erik Cole.

Maurice also said he was expecting Joni Pitkanen to play, even after the defenseman missed the last two practices with a minor illness. Holding Pitkanen out of practice is the latest in a series of such precautionary moves that have occurred throughout the season due to isolated incidents of H1N1 infections throughout the league.

“Anybody that feels off now, it used to be ‘Skate it off,’" said Maurice. “Now, it’s ‘Stay at home until you feel better.'”

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