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Prospects Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Blackhawks

Prospects Tournament championship berth on the line

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Win and they're in.

With a victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the third round-robin match of the tournament, the Carolina Hurricanes can earn their second consecutive berth in the NHL Prospects Tournament championship game.

"We need to have a good start," head coach Mike Vellucci said. "We need to have some speed. We've got to get out of our own end, have some clean break-outs and make sure we play in their end."

"We're all playing together really well, so we can't really change anything," defenseman Josh Wesley said. "Just be strong on the puck, be physical and score more goals than them."

Video: Josh Wesley: "A lot of team bonding"

The Hurricanes have sole possession of first place in the Gordie Howe Division after a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings and a 4-0 shutout victory over the New York Rangers. The Blackhawks fell to the Rangers in the season opener before erasing a third-period deficit to defeat Detroit in game two. The winner will face the Columbus Blue Jackets, winners of four tournament titles, in Tuesday's championship game.

The Canes will ice a familiar lineup tonight; the only skater change from a game ago is Brendan De Jong drawing back into the lineup in place of Adam Thilander.

"I like to keep the lines together as much as I can because they get that chemistry," Vellucci said. "They've played well together … and in this tournament, you want to make sure you get ice time for everybody."

Additionally, Callum Booth, who made 34 saves on 36 shots against Detroit, will backstop the team in net.

Video: Mike Vellucci: "I'd like to keep the lines together"

"He obviously deserves the opportunity," Vellucci said. "They've both played really well, and tonight is [Booth]'s night."

The Canes' power play has found the back of the net in each of the first two games, and it's been Janne Kuokkanen's dangerous release doing the damage.

"We have a good unit. There's a lot of skilled players," he said. "The puck movement is great, and that's why we have two goals already."

Video: Janne Kuokkanen: "We need to skate hard"

On the other side of the puck, the defense has been strong, leading a perfect penalty kill and limiting the Rangers to just 19 shots on goal in game two.

"A lot of communication is key in the games," Wesley said. "We're playing really well together as a whole. Just keep it simple."

Following a day off on Sunday, the Hurricanes got back on the ice Monday morning in preparation for the round-robin finale. The importance of rest and recovery is amplified when the schedule features four games in five days.

"A lot of hydration and rest," Wesley said. "Anything you can do to take care of your body to come out strong for these next two games."

A win tonight means the Hurricanes will have the opportunity to claim back-to-back championships at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City. You can catch the action streaming live on FOX Sports GO at 6:30 p.m., and we'll be rinkside at Centre Ice Arena to bring you the latest on Twitter at @CanesTracking.


De Jong-Carroll


Scratches: Hollowell, Lorentz, Thilander

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