HURRICANES (2-5-2) at WILD (2-7-0)
These teams meet twice in less than a month -- Minnesota will pay a return visit to Carolina for a matinee on Nov. 15. The Wild claimed a 3-2 win at Xcel Energy Center in their only meeting with the Hurricanes last season, rallying from a two-goal deficit on second-period goals by Cal Clutterbuck
, Marian Gaborik and Stephane Veilleux. Goalie Niklas Backstrom
stopped 35 shots.
It's safe to say neither team expected to find itself in its current position. Carolina was a conference finalist last season, but the Hurricanes can't buy a victory away from home (0-4-1). The same holds true for Minnesota, which dropped to 0-7-0 on the road with Friday's loss in St. Louis. On the bright side, the Wild have won both their home games this season.
In danger of being swept on a four-game road swing, Carolina is 0-3-2 overall since a 7-2 drubbing of Florida at home on Oct. 9. The Hurricanes got points from 11 different players Friday night in Colorado, but they let an early 2-0 lead slip away and wound up 5-4 losers. The Avalanche scored a pair of goals 31 seconds apart in the first period and added two more just :40 apart in the second.
"It's pretty frustrating," Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen
said. "When the other team gets goals, it looks like our confidence goes down."
Eventually the schedule will even out and Minnesota will receive a glut of home games to make up for all the time it's spent on the road early in the season, but that isn't going to matter much if the Wild bury themselves in the standings. They fell behind the Blues 2-0 and got their only goal from newcomer Chuck Kobasew in a 3-1 defeat.
"You have to figure out by now how to be ready when the game starts," Backstrom said. "We can't afford to do this every night."
Who's Hot -- Matt Cullen
has scored goals in consecutive games for the Hurricanes. Backstrom has a .933 save percentage for the Wild over his last four starts, despite a 1-3-0 record.
Injury Report --
Carolina forward Erik Cole is on injured reserve with a broken leg and defenseman Tim Gleason
is out with an upper-body injury. Forward Tuomo Ruutu
could face discipline from the League in the wake of his boarding major and game misconduct Friday for a hit on Darcy Tucker that led to the Colorado forward being taken off on a stretcher and sent to the hospital with what was being reported as a concussion.
Minnesota is starting to get healthy. Forward Martin Havlat returned from his groin injury Wednesday against Colorado and forwards Petr Sykora (groin) and Clutterbuck (ankle) are getting closer to playing. Forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard
remains on injured reserve due to a concussion.
Stat Pack --
The name Eric Staal
would usually be associated with goals and points, but Carolina's captain is tied for sixth in team scoring through nine games, with three goals and four points. Where he does lead the Hurricanes is with 34 penalty minutes, after he was assessed minors for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct to go with a 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct in the waning moments against Colorado. Staal had just 50 penalty minutes in 82 games each of the last two seasons.
Puck Drop --
Unless a pair of streaks come to an end, this looks to be Minnesota's night. Carolina needs to channel the magic of last year's postseason, when the 'Canes won a pair of Game 7s on the road in dramatic fashion.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com