Carolina Hurricanes (14-21-7) at Nashville Predators (21-15-4)
Bridgestone Arena, 8 p.m.
Yet another roster move was made earlier today as winger Drayson Bowman was sent back to Charlotte to make room for returning RW Patrick Dwyer. Do I agree with this move? Absolutely not, because Bowman was doing just about everything right ever since being recalled by Carolina. 52% of the even strength scoring chances went in the Canes favor when Bowman was on the ice and having a presence like that is important when you're a team that's starved for offense like Carolina is right now. That said, the Canes have three natural centers playing on the first line now and with only so many others on the roster, someone had to be sent down and that guy was Bowman. Bowman is also one of the few players who are waiver exempt, so that makes the decision to send him down make more sense. I have a feeling that we'll be seeing him back in Raleigh some time this year, though. Maybe he'll earn himself a spot in camp to start next year if he keeps it up?
We must move on now and it will be great to have Patrick Dwyer back in the lineup as his defensive presence was missed greatly. Finding a spot for him in the lineup is harder than it seems, though because his usual linemate, Brandon Sutter, is now centering our second line and Dwyer isn't the most threatening second line winger. He was playing on the first line with Staal and has played more than 15 minutes in some games so him playing there is a possibility. I'm just skeptical of how successful it will be. Dwyer-Sutter-LaRose is a fantastic third line and a great defensive unit to put out against other team's top lines but I don't know if they are anything more than that at this point. The return of Jeff Skinner will help this matter a lot, but the Canes are going to need to make due with what they have now and hopefully pick up their second win and two nights as they take on the Nashville Predators.
Lines & more after the jump
Jokinen - Staal - Ruutu
Dwyer - Sutter - LaRose
Ponikarovsky - Brent - Tlusty
Stewart - Sutter42 - Nodl
Gleason - McBain
Faulk - Harrison
Allen - Spacek
Kostitsyn - Fisher - Hornqvist
Erat - Legwand - Smith
Smithson - Spaling - Tootoo
Bourque - Halischuk - McGrattan
Weber - Suter
Klein - Josi
Hillen - Boulion
Getting to know the Predators
The Predators appear to be on track for another playoff appearance but unlike last year, they have been a horrible possession team and are last in the league in Fenwick tied. How are they winning games? For one, they have a top-five goalie in Pekka Rinne and arguably the best defense pairing in the league in Ryan Suter & Shea Weber, which has been enough to keep them in most games. They have also gotten some great luck on the powerplay as they are ranked 2nd in the league in PP% but they are an average team in terms of getting shots on net during 5-on-4 play. If you can believe it, the Canes are actually getting more shots on net with the man advantage than the Preds are this year.It goes to show you how much luck can be involved with special teams play.
The interesting thing about the Predators is how different of a team they are when Suter/Weber are on the ice compared to when they are not. The Predators give up about 2.5 more shots when Suter/Weber are on the ice which looks amazing when you consider that the team is outshot by five or more when any other defender is on the ice. It just shows you how much little depth there is on this team behind these two studs. It makes you wonder how much they will pony up to keep both of them. My personal opinion is that they will do enough to keep Weber but I don't see how they can afford both. It'll be a huge hit for this franchise if/when he leaves so they might as well make the most of his time here now.
- The general marker for a "top-six forward" is one who scores 1.8 even strength points per 60 minutes. The Canes have only one healthy forward who is above that mark right now; Tuomo Ruutu. I shouldn't need to tell you who the unhealthy one is.
- Justin Peters is in net tonight and I think it is safe to say that he won't have to face over 50 shots this time. Might even have a chance at his first win in almost a year.
- How bad Nashville is without Weber/Suter could open a big opportunity for the Canes because their other lines might be able to take advantage of that. Of course, the problem here is that there aren't too many Canes forwards not on the first line who are great possession players & goal scorers. Here's hoping the secondary scoring shows up tonight because 15-12-36 are going to see a lot of Weber/Suter tonight.
- Despite scoring a powerplay goal, Justin Faulk is coming off one of his worst games as an NHL-er, so let's hope he rebounds tonight. Although, I'm not sure who we'll match him and Harrison up against because the Preds don't appear to have a big scoring line. Erat-Legwand-Smith is the closest I can think of. Will be interesting to see if Muller elects to play the matchup game at all tonight.
Enjoy the game.
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