BLUES (4-4-1) at HURRICANES (2-5-3)
First and only meeting this season. Carolina swept a pair of low-scoring, one-goal games last season. The Hurricanes won 1-0 in St. Louis on Oct. 30, 2008, with Tuomo Ruutu
scoring the goal and Cam Ward
making 19 saves for his seventh career shutout. They also edged the Blues 2-1 at the RBC Center on Jan. 2, 2009, thanks to power-play goals by Eric Staal
and Anton Babchuk. Ward had another shutout going in the third until David Backes
It's been a long time between wins for Carolina, which returns from a four-game road trip that brought with it nothing better than single points for a shootout loss on Long Island and an overtime defeat in Minnesota -- the Hurricanes went 0-2-2 and are now 0-4-2 away from home this season. They've lost six in a row overall since a 7-2 drubbing of Southeast Division rival Florida on Oct. 9.
Expectations were high entering the season and only increased after a sweep of Detroit in Stockholm, but St. Louis has muddled through the time since then. The Blues were .500 on a recent two-game homestand, slipping past Minnesota but getting defeated 4-1 by Dallas. The lone bright spot in that game was defenseman Alex Pietrangelo
, the No. 4 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, scoring his first NHL goal.
"It's always good to get your first goal, but it's kind of overshadowed by the loss," Pietrangelo said. "We played hard tonight, we really did. A few mistakes and they took advantage of it. It's a good feeling, but at the same time, it's tough to go through that with a loss."
Maybe the home fans can lift Carolina out of its recent doldrums, which have seen the Hurricanes slip to fourth in the Southeast, seven points behind Washington after 10 games. There's a long way to go in the season, but the team has some issues it needs to get straightened out. Winning on the road will have to wait until Saturday's trip to Philadelphia, but the 'Canes can focus on staying out of the box -- they took 10 penalties and gave the Wild seven power plays on Saturday.
"When you have to kill a lot of penalties, it taxes a lot of your players, physically," Ray Whitney told the Charlotte Observer. "The last 10 minutes we may have looked on the tired side."
Who's Hot --
Whitney, who recently played in his 1,000th NHL game, has three goals and six points in his last five games, as he leads the Hurricanes in scoring. For the Blues, goalie Chris Mason is coming off his best start of the season, stopping 20 of 21 shots in beating Minnesota.
Injury Report --
St. Louis forwards DJ King (broken hand) and Alexander Steen
(broken wrist) are out long term. Defenseman Barret Jackman
hasn't played since Oct. 8 due to an ankle injury. Defenseman Eric Brewer is working his way back from a knee injury.
Carolina forward Erik Cole, out the past several weeks with a broken leg, has been placed on injured reserve. Defenseman Tim Gleason
has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury. Ruutu will also miss his second of three games due to a suspension following his hit on Colorado forward Darcy Tucker.
Stat Pack --
Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour began his career with the Blues during the 1989 Stanley Cup Playoffs and played two full seasons in St. Louis, scoring 43 goals and 110 points with a plus-25 rating in 157 games.
Puck Drop --
This game marks the first in a back-to-back situation for St. Louis, which returns home to Scottrade Center for a game Thursday against Phoenix. An early goal or two for Carolina would go a long way toward ending their recent miseries.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com