Who: Carolina Hurricanes (6-7-4)
When: Tonight, 7:00PM EST/5:00PM MDT
Your Starting Goalies: COL – Semyon Varlamov (9-2-0), CAR – Justin Peters (2-5-1)
The Dangermen: The Hurricanes are a little thin in this department and are scoring at the third-worst goals-per-game average in the league right now.
Making that situation worse, Jeff Skinner, who is tied for the team lead in points with Eric Staal (9), is on the injured reserve with an “upper body injury” and isn’t likely to return until the end of the month. That’s a huge blow for a team already struggling to score.
The aforementioned Staal leads the way in points while former Buffalo Sabre Nathan Gerbe leads the team in goals with 4. The Canes would like more out of Alexander Semin (8 points in 17 games), Jiri Tlusty (6) and Jordan Staal (4) than they’ve seen.
At this point, the Canes are just trying to weather the storm of injuries. They are likely to continue to struggle scoring goals and facing the team with the best goals-against-average in the league isn’t likely to help matters.
The Defenders: Like the forwards, injuries have hampered this unit big-time. Top-pairing defenseman Joni Pitkanen was lost for the season before it ever started and now Tim Gleason is battling injury, though he is practicing with the team again.
Andrej Sekera has been a nice surprise offensively with a pair of goals and 7 points on the year so far, though like the rest of this unit, has been a bit disappointing defensively. They’re treading water at the moment, but that’s more due to the play of their goaltender than anything else.
Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy are smaller puckmovers, Jay Harrison is a decent defender with a heavy shot; ditto for Ron Hainsey who was signed to help fill the gap left by Pitkanen.
Puck Stoppers Inc.: The Avalanche got Justin Peters last time and that’s who they’ll get this time around. He’s been hot of late, going 2-0-1 in his last three starts, surrendering just three goals in that time. He stopped 28 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota on Saturday and has generally kept the Canes from sinking.
The good news for the Hurricanes is that starter Cam Ward is practicing with the team and could be ready to take over between the pipes again by the end of the week. That’s huge news considering he’s been out around two weeks or so.
They’re still missing Anton Khudobin, who joins Skinner and Pitkanen on the injured reserve list.
How the Avs match up: Enough about the forwards – this is the type of game the defense drools over. A team struggling to score goals against the team who’s surrendered the fewest goals in the league? Yes, please.
The Avs are still missing Ryan Wilson due to a back injury, but Nick Holden slid into the lineup nicely. He uses his body well and even picked up his first NHL goal against Washington on Sunday.
As always, the forwards need to use their speed on an aggressive forecheck – this Hurricanes defense is thin. Peppering shots on Peters all game long is the best way to crack his hot streak.
Key Matchup: Forecheck vs thin Hurricanes defense
Cower in fear if: Peters is on his game, keeping the Canes in it.
Varly struggles again.
Another injury besets the defensemen.
Laugh maniacally if: The Avs win the possession game, keeping pressure in the offensive zone.
Defense is getting into shooting lanes, blocking and deflecting shots.
Every line scores again as is wont to happen.
Silly predictions: Jamie McGinn, come on down!; Nathan MacKinnon reminds us that he’s pretty good at hockey, too; Matt Duchene scores again to extend his team point lead; Varly gets his first shutout.
Final: 3-0 Avs
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