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Hurricanes, Senators get afternoon started early

by Kurt Dusterberg

SENATORS (22-19-10) at HURRICANES (22-19-9)


Last 10: Ottawa 6-1-3; Carolina 7-3-0

Season series: This is the second of three games between the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes. Eric Staal had a goal and two assists as the Hurricanes claimed a 4-1 win against the Senators on Nov. 24 at PNC Arena.

Big story: Approximately 17 hours after they were originally scheduled to face off, the Hurricanes and Senators will try to keep putting points in the bank as they make their respective climbs up the Eastern Conference standings. The game was pushed back from Friday night to noon Saturday after a snowstorm earlier in the week postponed Carolina's game at the Philadelphia Flyers to Wednesday. The Hurricanes already had a road game scheduled Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres, and NHL teams can't play on three consecutive days.

"You've got to be ready for anything thrown at you," coach Kirk Muller said in the Raleigh News & Observer. "Ottawa probably doesn't play too many at noon, either, so there's no excuses."

Team Scope:

Senators: Robin Lehner gets the start in goal for Ottawa after four straight for Craig Anderson. Defensemen Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci got the day off Friday as most of the Senators practiced on a day they had penciled in for a morning skate and game in the evening.

Since scoring his fourth goal of the season against the New York Rangers on Jan. 18, defenseman Marc Methot has been out of the lineup first due to injury and then as a healthy scratch, but he's expected to draw back in Saturday. Coach Paul MacLean told the Ottawa Sun it was a reflection of the number of capable bodies the Senators have on defense, not anything Methot had done wrong.

"[Methot] has played fine," he said. "He's been one of the four guys that has played most of the time. If he's ready to play, we're going to have to get him in because he's an important player for us."

Hurricanes: For the second time this season, Carolina is three games over .500. The Hurricanes' top scoring line from last season, Alexander Semin, Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty, was reunited four games ago in an effort to produce more offense. Staal has responded with a goal and five assists, while Tlusty has produced two goals and three assists since the line change and Semin has six goals in four games, matching his total from his first 34 games.

When Jeff Skinner scored against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, it snapped a five-game scoreless streak. But that drought came on the heels of the hottest stretch of his NHL career, in which he scored 17 goals in 17 games.

Anton Khudobin, who is expected to start in goal, continues to thrive in the absence of injured starter Cam Ward. Khudobin has a 9-3-0 mark as a starter with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

“He says he feels good. He’s on a roll,” Muller said of Khudobin. “He competes. He really doesn’t quit on any shots. He’s made some big, key saves on second and third chances. He’s seeing the puck well, he’s focused and he’s confident.”

Carolina sent defenseman Ryan Murphy was sent to Charlotte on Friday, making him eligible to play in the American Hockey League during the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Who's hot: Senators forward Clarke MacArthur has seven goals and four assists in the past 10 games. Karlsson has two goals and nine assists in his past eight games. … In addition to the top line, defenseman Andrej Sekera has four points in his past two games. With 28 points, he is just one shy of his career best, established with Buffalo in 2010-11.

Injury report: Ottawa forward Mark Stone (arm) is on injured reserve. … Ward (lower body), who stopped 35 shots for Carolina in the Nov. 24 game between these teams, is on injured reserve but is skating.

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