As the Hurricanes play their first game since wrapping up a playoff spot against the New York Islanders tonight, a few franchise records are on the line.
A win would be the team’s ninth in a row, tying the record set twice in 2005-06. It would also be Cam Ward
’s 39th, which would break Martin Gerber’s mark set that same season.
With the postseason just around the corner, any such comparisons to that Stanley Cup champion team should be welcomed.
Tonight’s game presents an interesting challenge for the Canes, who universally agree that they don’t want to take their foot off the gas whatsoever, even after securing their place among the Eastern Conference’s top eight. However, Coach Paul Maurice said that a small lapse or two against a young, hard working team tonight wouldn’t come as a complete shock.
“I think we’re going to have to deal with it as the game goes on,” he said. “It would be foolish to think that based on the two months that we’ve just gone through that there isn’t going to be a little exhale. We’ve talked about it before and we talked about it yesterday, but we’ll do everything we can to deal with it.”
The Canes have a few lineup changes tonight, as defenseman Frantisek Kaberle will appear in his first game since March 12 at the expense of Joe Corvo. Corvo did participate in the morning skate today, but “is not 100 percent,” according to Maurice. Patrick Eaves, who missed the team’s last game with an upper body injury, is back in for Ryan Bayda. Although he missed practice yesterday, Tuomo Ruutu will play.
When the Islanders last came to town on March 20, they were playing some of their best hockey of the season despite their place as the NHL’s last-placed team. They’ve posted a record of 2-4-1 since then, indicating that run may be over.
However, they gave the Canes all they could handle a few weeks ago, outplaying them in the second period in a way they haven’t been outplayed in a few months, so that capability remains. The Islanders are a very fast team, and one doesn’t necessarily have to be a superstar to score on uncontested breakaways.
Key defenseman Mark Streit has been nursing a groin injury but is expected to play tonight. Leading goal scorer Kyle Okposo, also with a groin injury, is not.