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Hurricanes return home to face surging Senators

by Brian Hunter /
SENATORS (3-5-0) at HURRICANES (3-3-2)


Season Series:
First of four meetings. After the Senators edged the Hurricanes in the series opener last season, Carolina won the next three -- including a 7-1 rout on Nov. 17, 2010, with Eric Staal recording the hat trick. Staal and Chad LaRose led all scorers with 4 goals apiece. Cam Ward was in net for all four games.

Big Story:
This marks the beginning of the first homestand of the season for the Hurricanes, who play five of their next six at the RBC Center. Prior to Tuesday, their only home games this season came on opening night against the Lightning (a 5-1 loss) and five days later against the Bruins (a 3-2 win). Perhaps as a result of all the time on the road, Carolina's play has been a bit uneven: an 0-2-1 start followed by three straight wins and then 0-1-1 since.

Team Scope:

Senators: Young teams looking to build confidence can get an awful lot out of the type of win Ottawa pulled off Saturday night against Columbus. Down by a goal with less than a minute to play, the Senators appeared to have forced overtime when Jason Spezza scored with 36 seconds remaining. But then they eschewed the extra period completely, as Milan Michalek tipped in a Sergei Gonchar drive with 4.7 seconds to play, providing a stunning 4-3 victory over the Blue Jackets. It gave the Senators their first win streak of the season at two games.

"That was a great game," Gonchar said. "It seems like we're playing better and better and finally we're starting to pick up some wins."

It's hard to be disappointed with a four-game road trip that results in a 2-1-1 record, but Carolina had the opportunity to do better after starting out with wins in Buffalo and Boston. The Hurricanes let a 2-0 lead slip away during an overtime loss in St. Louis, then let another early two-goal lead get away and fell victim to a three-goal second period by the Jets in a 5-3 defeat Saturday. Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Skinner scored 2:03 apart in the first, while Tuomo Ruutu tacked on a goal in the third.

"We've played six of our eight games on the road," coach Paul Maurice said. "We've played some good teams lately. I don't like this game. It taints the mood. But overall I've been happy with our start (to the season)."

Who's Hot: Spezza has 3 goals in as many games for the Senators and back-to-back efforts of a goal and 2 assists. Michalek has 3 goals and 2 assists over the last two games. … Skinner added a pair of assists to go along with his goal in the Hurricanes' loss to the Jets.

Injury Report: Ottawa forward Peter Regin missed Saturday's game with a shoulder injury. Forward Bobby Butler (groin) and defenseman Matt Carkner (knee) are on injured reserve. … Carolina forward Zac Dalpe missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury.

Stat Pack:
Chris Neil of the Senators led the NHL in penalty minutes heading into Monday's action with 46, while teammate Zenon Konopka's 34 PIMs placed him fourth. … Staal is off to a bit of a rough start for the Hurricanes -- his 3 goals tie Skinner for the team lead, but he only has 4 points in eight games and his minus-10 rating was worst in the League entering Monday.

Puck Drop:
Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson emerged as an offensive force in his second season with 13 goals and 45 points, and he's picked right up where he left off by registering 1 goal and 9 points in the first eight games of this season. Now he wants to improve on the minus-30 rating he had as a sophomore and the minus-6 he takes into Tuesday's action.

"I want to be a two-way player," he said. "I don't just want to be recognized for putting up points. I'm working on it and I'm doing the best I can every game to try to prove that I can play at both ends of the ice. Right now, it's hard, but I've just got to keep going.

"I think I play with less risk now than maybe I did in my first two years. I try to make safer plays now than I did before … I think I'm on my way to learning when to do what and what not to do. Hopefully, that can help me to be a better hockey player."

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