It didn’t seem like it for much of the season due to injuries, but good health and a few trades have transformed the Hurricanes into a deep offensive team.
As we saw in Games 3 and 4 in Raleigh, the team’s fourth line of Ryan Bayda, Jussi Jokinen
and Scott Walker, all of which can play higher in the lineup and probably would be on many other teams, can score big goals in addition to providing an energy boost.
That trio netted a goal in each of the aforementioned home games, not counting Jokinen’s dramatic Game 4 winner that came while skating with Rod Brind’Amour and Sergei Samsonov.
No disrespect to the 2006 fourth line of Craig Adams, Kevyn Adams and Chad LaRose, but even that team didn’t have the same scoring depth. Although that unit played very well in a shutdown role, it combined for just one assist in the playoffs.
Perhaps in this series more than any other, scoring balance has been important. With a structured system, reliable defensemen and excellent checking forwards such as John Madden, the New Jersey Devils make a living by limiting the chances of the opposition’s high-end players. That being said, Eric Staal’s two goals in four games aren’t a bad return.
That’s going to happen against New Jersey, which is what makes the contributions of others more important. While the Devils’ best defensive players are keyed on Carolina’s scoring lines, others need to step up. We all know what the big guys can do, but depth players can often be the X factor in the playoffs. So far, so good in that regard.
On the New Jersey side, their overall depth has taken a hit as Jamie Langenbrunner and Bryce Salvador seem unlikely to play tonight. Langenbrunner, who normally plays on the team’s top scoring line, missed Games 2 and 3 with a lower body injury. Salvador, a physical defenseman, appeared to suffer a knee injury in Game 5 and left the game in the second period.
The Canes are scheduled to take the Prudential Center ice at noon today, so we’ll have audio from players and coaches, as well as any other updates, shortly afterwards.
One update on Sunday’s game at the RBC Center – New York’s win over Washington last night means that Game 6 in that series is still not assured. Since the Hurricanes’ start time on Sunday depends on that series, we won’t know when the puck drops at the RBC Center until after its next game on Friday night. If Washington wins, the Canes are at 7:30. If the Rangers win and end the series, the Canes are at 2.