Nashville Predators (37-19-7) at Carolina Hurricanes (23-26-13)
TV: FS-Carolinas, FS-Tennessee
RBC Center 7 p.m.
The Hurricanes did not make any trades on deadline day but they did make a few small moves within the organization and the one that caught everyone’s eye was the decision to re-call Zach Boychuk from Charlotte. Many thought that this should have been the year for Boychuk to break into the NHL but that hasn’t happened yet. He got a 13 game audition earlier in the season and only had two points during that stint, which got him sent back to Charlotte. A few people have written him off as a bust but I think there is still plenty of hope left for Boychuk to become an NHL player. Remember, he was stuck on the fourth line for nearly every game during his call-up and when he was given top-six minutes, he played pretty well.
Kirk Muller has been the opposite of Maurice in the sense that he is putting his younger players in positions that they can succeed in. Meaning he won’t glue Boychuk to the fourth line and put him with some talented linemates just like he did with Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe and Jerome Samson. Boychuk’s window of opportunity isn’t that large because Dwyer isn’t going to be out for that long and Chad LaRose is close to returning so he is going to need to take advantage of his ice time for these next few games and prove to everyone that he can make it in the NHL. He’s played 69 games with the Canes and has only accumulated seven goals and 18 points, which means he’s got a lot to prove even if he has played well at the AHL. It starts tonight with tonight’s game against the Nashville Predators
Lines, Scoring chances & more after the jump
Tlusty – Staal – Samson
Boychuk – Jokinen – Skinner
Nodl – Sutter – Bowman
Stewart – Brent – Joslin
Gleason – Allen
Faulk – Harrison
McBain – Spacek
A. Kostitsyn – Legwand – Hornqvist
S. Kostitsyn – Fisher – Erat
Wilson – Gaustad – Tootoo
Halischuk – Smith – Yip
Weber – Suter
Josi – Gill
Boulion – Hillen
Getting to know the Predators:
The Preds handed Carolina a 5-2 loss in Nashville back in January and that was mostly due to the Canes inability to stay out of the box. Nashville struck four times on the powerplay and put the game away with five unanswered goals. It was one of the poorest performances that Carolina had this year and showed how poor this penalty kill has been. Staying out of the box is going to be key tonight because while the Preds powerplay isn’t that great getting shots on net, they are #2 in the league in PP efficiency. Whether this is luck or not, the Canes are better off taking the safe route and not committing penalties.
Nashville was one of the most active teams this deadline as David Poille acquired Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad over the last few weeks. He paid a big price to acquire all of them but Nashville needed both scoring and defensive depth, which is what all of these players bring. Gaustad, in particular, will be helpful because he is a terrific third line center who can drive play in the right direction and an excellent face-off guy. I would never give up a first round pick for a player like him but Poille is clearly going all-in this year and I understand his mindset. Will the Preds make it that far, though? The numbers don’t speak in their favor. They are one of the worst teams in the league at controlling possession and have a PDO of 101.4, which is pretty high and will come down at some point. Having a top-tier goalie like Pekka Rinne helps teams get over that problem and into the playoffs but would anyone consider them a cup favorite? I don’t think I would.
- Jiri Tlusty’s point streak was broken on Saturday but Eric Staal is riding an eight-game point streak of his own. He’s still leading the team in every posession and shot metric and now that the bounces are starting to go his way, he is a very dangerous player. He is playing some of his best hockey of the year right now.
- Cam Ward returns after taking some time off due to an injury and when he left off, he was on one of the best runs of his career. Will that continue or will it level off?
- Anders Lindback is in net tonight for the Predators which means that Hurricanes fans are taking a sigh of relief. Lindback is not a bad goalie but I would rather face him than Rinne, that’s for sure.
- Jamie McBain was on ice for 19 even strength scoring chances last week and none of them were goals (he scored once on the PP). He did all the right things last week but the puck just wasn’t going in. I think we might see his luck turn around tonight and he gets at least a point.
- Over/under on how many minutes Justin Faulk plays tonight? He played 28 last game and I hope that Muller and Lewis reduce that a bit. Faulk did not have a good game at even strength against Florida and I think him playing too many minutes had a lot to do with it. Harrison played a little less and was equally as poor at even strength.
- As far as matchups go, I guess Allen/Gleason will play against Legwand’s line because that’s where Patrick Hornqvist plays and we need these two to keep him out of the crease area where he scores most of his goals. I think they can do a better job of that than our other two defense pairings. Also, this means Faulk/Harrison will face the Fisher like and that’s going to be an interesting matchup. Faulk had a tough time defending Bergenheim on Saturday so I hope we see a rebound tonight.
- Another good question is who will Shea Weber and Ryan Suter be matched up against. Natural instincts say they’ll be put up against the Staal line because he’s the Hurricanes’ best forward which creates a good matchup for just about everyone else. Adding Hal Gill helps the Preds defensive depth but their D’s quality drops off dramatically after Suter/Weber. Canes need to take advantage of the time when those two aren’t on the ice.
Enjoy the game and let’s go Canes.