Originally written on Shutdown Line  |  Last updated 10/25/14
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers BankAtlantic Center, 7:30 p.m. TV: FS-Carolinas, FS-Florida The long wait is finally over and the much anticipated 2013 season will begin tonight for the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina comes into this season with a new-look offense and greater expectations than they've had in a few years. It's definitely an exciting time to be a Hurricanes fan right now, as there are a lot of rumblings about this team making a strong playoff push and maybe even a division championship. Before we begin to think about that, the Canes have some business to take care of the next few months and it starts tonight with a showdown against the defending Southeast Division champions in the Florida Panthers. Regardless of what happens tonight, I'm sure the fans will be happy just that the NHL is back, after it looked like we may not have a season this year. Many of us have turned to other outlets to get our hockey fixes, but it's hard to match the thrill and excitement that the NHL brings night in and night out. Plus, Carolina fans will finally get to see Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin in regular season action for the Hurricanes, which is going to be a treat no matter what. We'll take a closer look at these two teams and talk about possible matchups after the jump. Hurricanes Lines Boychuk - E. Staal - Semin Skinner - J. Staal - Dalpe Tlusty - Jokinen - LaRose Bowman - Brent - Dwyer Gleason - Corvo Pitkanen - Faulk Harrison - Sanguinetti   Ward Ellis Scratches: Welsh, McBain, Westgarth Panthers Lines (Subject to change) Fleischmann - Weiss - Versteeg Huberdeau - Goc - Upshall Kopecky - Matthias - Mueller Kovalev - Santorelli - Skille   Campbell - Kuba Jovanovski - Ellerby Stratchan - Caruso Theodore Clemmensen Possible Scratches: Parros, Smithson Out: Bergenheim, Gudbranson, Kulikov, Weaver Scouting the Enemy The Panthers won five of six meetings against the Hurricanes last season, one of them coming on the last of game of the season to clinch a Southeast Division title. The Panthers are not paper tigers, as they are a pretty decent team at controlling the play at even strength, but they had a lot of things go right for them last season. They picked up 18 of their points from shootout losses and accumulated 52 of their 94 points in one-goal games, which is a tell-tale sign of luck playing a role in their success. That being said, this team had Carolina's number last year for whatever reason and getting a win over them would be a nice way to start a new season for the Canes. The Panthers come into tonight's game with a somewhat depleted roster, as they will be missing four total players tonight, three of which being defenseman. Not having Gudbranson and Bergenheim in the lineup is obviously stings, but the Panthers are also going to be without their entire second defense pairing with Mike Weaver sustaining an injury in a scrimmage the other night and Dmitry Kulikov not coming to terms on a contract until the last minute. This probably means that two of Keaton Ellerby, Ed Jovanovski, Michael Caruso or Tyston Stratchan will have to take on a bigger workload than they are used to. This will obviously put a big strain on their defense and create a favorable matchup for Carolina's second and third lines. That is, unless Kevin Dineen plans to have Brian Campbell and Filip Kuba set individual records for ice-time tonight. Up front, Florida is less banged up and still has a very strong first line with Tomas Fleischmann,  Stephen Weiss and Sean Bergenheim. Carolina fans already know enough about them, though but one guy who they probably haven't seen a lot of is youngster Jonathan Huberdeau, who will be making his NHL debut tonight. Huberdeau was the Panthers 1st round pick in the 2011 Draft and has been a stud in the QMJHL. He may get a chance to play in the top-six in Bergenheim's usual spot, which should be interesting to see. Florida needs secondary scoring in the worst way and he could give them the jolt they need. I'm not sure if putting him alongside Marcel Goc will work out, though, seeing how Goc is basically Florida's version of Brandon Sutter and plays extremely tough minutes. Five Things to Watch For - The biggest thing I'm going to keep an eye on is how Kirk Muller uses Jordan Staal. He's playing with completely different linemates than he had in Pittsburgh and could be used in a different role if Muller doesn't trust Dalpe or Skinner against other team's top lines. Staal is obviously good enough to get the job done on his own, so he may continue to use him the same way he was in Pittsburgh. If Muller decides to shelter him then we should be in for a wild ride. - Gleason/Corvo vs. the Weiss line is going to be a key matchup for this game. This will be the first time in awhile that Corvo has been placed in a shutdown role and going up against the third best line in the Southeast will be a good test for him and Gleason. - Keep an eye on the pace of play to see how much the Canes have improved at preventing shots and chances against. This is one area Muller wanted the Canes to improve on this year and they have a good chance to get that off on the right foot with the shape Florida's defense is in. I know it's only the first game of the year and everyone is going to be rusty but if the Canes can not take advantage of a defense pairing featuring a 36-year-old Ed Jovanovski and Keaton Ellerby then I will have some major concerns about this season. Not really, but this is a matchup the Hurricanes should be able to exploit with their top-six. - Bobby Sanguinetti is apparently going to be in the lineup for opening night and that is very exciting news for the future of Carolina's blue-line. He has played so well in Charlotte and in camp, so it's great to finally see him get a shot. He'll be on the third pairing, so it'll be in a limited role but it's been awhile since I was able to get a good luck at his play and it will be interesting to see how he performs.  - Dalpe and Boychuk are getting shots in the top-six right off the bat and everyone in Caniac Nation is going to keep an eye on their performance.These are two of Carolina's top forward prospects and were not long ago expected to be top-six players in the NHL. Those expectations have dwindled in recent years but both have been fantastic in Charlotte during the lockout, so their hard work has earned them another chance. Will they be able to take advantage of it? We'll have to wait and see about that, but the fact that they are being used in significant roles instead of being plugged on the fourth line has to make a lot of people happy. Well folks, it's been a long wait but here's hoping that tonight's game and this season makes up for it. Sit back and enjoy the game. Oh, and Let's Go Canes!
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bears to bench Jay Cutler, start Jimmy Clausen

Wes Welker once pulled funny UGG prank on Tom Brady

Wil Myers heads to Padres in 11-player, 3-team trade

Bo Pelini calls Nebraska AD a ‘c–t’ and ‘p-ssy’

49ers release Ray McDonald

Take your pick: Colin Kaepernick or Derek Carr

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Reports: Michigan makes huge offer to Harbaugh

Heat lose a key player with McRoberts out for rest of season

Belichick: Ryan is 'buttering me up' with Hall of Fame praise

Marshall: Bears need to gel and do some kumbaya

Red Sox appear content with rotation despite lack of true ace

Iguodala gets technical for mocking Conley travel

Report: Celtics in serious trade talks involving Rondo

WATCH: Brandon Jennings makes mind-boggling play

WATCH: Drake intros Raptors on 'Drake Night'

Brian Billick owns Browns fan over Johnny Manziel criticism

WATCH: Did Flyers' Giroux wipe boogers on linesman’s back?

Royals sign Edinson Volquez to 2-year deal

12 candidates to replace Paul Chryst at Pitt

Brad Halsey claimed he was on cocaine for Bonds record HR

Wade Miley confident in health, diet after trade from D-Backs

When bowl results mean more for one school than another

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson lead in 2014 athlete Google searches

Max Scherzer next domino to fall in free agent market

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Brian Billick owns Browns fan

C's in serious trade talks about Rondo

Pelini has profane words for Nebraska AD

When bowl results mean more for one school than another

Four can't-miss match-ups in NFL's Week 16

RG3 quits social media for season

Each NFL division’s MVP

Five NFLers who must step up in Week 16

Most impressive college hoops teams

Five reasons why FSU is going to win the CFB Playoff

Boxer admits to dive in Rourke bout

FCC heard about Brady's swearing?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.