The Carolina Hurricanes host the Chicago Blackhawks in the two teams’ first and only meeting this season at the RBC Center on Friday night in Raleigh, N.C.
Sitting at 3-3-3, with a ninth of their NHL season complete, the Hurricanes will strap on their helmets and jump onto the ice with sharpened blades and taped sticks, ready to dig for pucks and scoring chances once more.
Though not headed West like prospectors during the late 19th century, the Hurricanes will seek to find their ‘goal rush’ at home against the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions.
Sifting the lines
In constant search of the right combinations needed to find their fortune in scoring goals, head coach Paul Maurice has made adjustments to the lineup that will faceoff against the Blackhawks who make their way to the South with a 5-1-2 record.
Eric Staal will play with Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose alongside him on the wings as the strong two-way Czech forward and gritty right winger have been tasked to ignite the team captain’s offensive output.
“We’re looking for little more of a playmaker with Staal right now,” Maurice said of shifting Tlusty to Staal’s side.
Maurice pointed out that Tlusty hadn’t been given this opportunity before and that his time has now come as a result of working hard all year and developing his game with and without the puck.
“He’s willing to go there and he’s willing to get into the dark areas to make plays, and we think we should see some there,” Maurice stated.
The latest sifting of the lines is yet another process that the coaching staff is using in attempting to find the best combinations to kickstart the team’s offense that possesses more scoring talent and potential than actual goals scored.
Assembling the troops
Positioned in the depth chart behind Staal’s line are Jeff Skinner and the two Finns, Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen, followed by Alexei Ponikarovsky, filling Tlusty’s spot, skating with Brandon Sutter and Pat Dwyer.
With Anthony Stewart still sidelined with a lower-body injury, his insertion into the lineup will be a game-time decision and has kept recent call-up Zach Boychuk in town as a fill-in on the fourth line alongside Tim Brent and Brett Sutter.
As the current mosaic of players is assembled in preparation for Friday’s game, the outlook is to continue to strive to get more offensive production in 5-on-5 situations.
Protecting their territory
The Blackhawks possess a wealth of scoring talent and hard-nosed forwards who will give the Hurricanes another real test of speed and strength which surprisingly enough can play to Carolina’s favor.
The caveat to this thinking is that the Hurricanes must set the tempo of play that made them successful against the Bruins and Sabres and not play to their opponents’ pace as the team did against Ottawa.
All things considered, this match-up is pretty even, and the most critical area in this game will come down to puck possession and finishing on scoring opportunities.
Carolina’s lapses in puck control so far this season has resulted in a fair number of giveaways (62), an area in which the Blackhawks have prospered in against their opponents as they have 80 takeaways recorded to date.
The last thing the Hurricanes need to worry about while they are ‘digging’ around the crease for goals is for another team to come in and take those chances away from them.
For Carolina, it’s time to ‘stake their claim’ around the net, get greedy and capitalize on their hard work to deposit each black nugget they find into the net.
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