The Canes and Oilers will play game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Edmonton tonight at 8:00. Again, the Oilers are on the brink of elimination and the Canes on the brink of winning their first Stanley Cup. However, the Hurricanes will have to play without one of their most important puzzle pieces -- Doug Weight. Weight was injured early in the third period on Wednesday after a couple of Edmonton skaters finished what looked like routine checks.
Weight, who scored 13 points (4/9) in 23 regular season games with the Canes, has been a key element of the Canes success in the postseason. He has accumulated 16 points (3/13) in 23 games. Two of his goals have been on the power play. It isn't his scoring, though. He is, and always has been, a playmaker. Although he won't always get assists, his passing is crisp and precise. He's usually the guy who gets a scoring play started. If the NHL gave tertiary assists, he's have a boatload of those. He's also very good at generating traffic in front of the net and creating screens, which both give the goaltender fits. That kind of thing can't be replaced.
I'm not sure what the details of his injury are. They'll only say that it's of the "upper body" variety. Some reports suggest that he left the rink with his arm in a sling on Wednesday night. Nothing has been said other than he won't be available for game 6.
In other news, Carolina blueline stalwart Aaron Ward will be in the lineup. He left the game in the first period on Wednesday, missing about half of the game. He returned late, and no details were given as to the nature of his absence. He'll be in the lineup, as will Glen Wesley, who has seen declining ice time as a result of being banged up.
With Weight out, and the defense a little banged up, there's some question as to how the lines will pan out. I'm almost inclined to say that we'll dress Oleg Tverdovsky as a seventh defenseman rather than inserting Chad Larose back into the lineup. Another option for seventh defenseman would be Anton Babchuk, who provides some offensive upside and a blisteringly hard shot. However, he's somewhat of a defensive liability. Ditto for Andrew Hutchinson.
What I'm expecting, then, is a slight change in the lines, with maybe Josef Vasicek getting increased ice time as a center. The Adams line will probably see that seventh defenseman skating with them.
I'll stick to my prediction that the first period will be the arbiter. Edmonton will come at Carolina hard, trying to exploit their attrition. Carolina will have to answer that call, accentuating their skill. We should see a very fast paced period, and my guess is that whoever wins the first period wins the game.
Puck drop is again at 8:00.
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