A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Canes host Flyers tonight

On New Year's Eve, the Hurricanes will be hosting the Flyers in their traditional NYE home game. This will be the fourth straight season the Canes have rung out the year with a game in the RBC Center on December 31.

After two games against the League's best teams, Carolina will get a look at the League's worst team. The Flyers won only one game thus far in December, dropping the other 10 games.

Carolina got some good news when both Kevyn Adams (wrist) and Andrew Ladd (appendix) were re-activated from the IR. Keith Aucoin has been reassigned to Albany. However, the blue line is hurting. Tim Gleason is still out, Frantisek Kaberle has been out all season, and now Nick Wallin has an "upper body" concern and is questionable for tonight's game. This means Avi Tanabe will be relied upon much more than most fans care for. He had a great game on Friday, and we hope that he can keep it up.

Peter Forsberg has just returned to the Flyers lineup after missing four games with a concussion. Don't think that the Canes aren't aware of this.

Viva, who is a former Flyer, should be expected to have a great game tonight to continue his hot streak.

After Thursday's debacle, all significant scoring streaks came to an end, but now the Captain (also a former Flyer) is on a five game points streak. He should also have a good night.

I'm guessing that Erik Cole will be quiet, and that Eric Staal will do something to snap out of his cold streak.

Puck drop will be at 8:00 eastern.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Canes to hit halfway mark

On Sunday night, with their traditional New Year's Eve home game, the Canes will play their 41st game of the season. They're not playing as well as they did last season, but they're right in the middle of the playoff pack, and despite a multitude of injuries, things are looking up.

At some point following the game (probably not until Tuesay afternoon) I plan to give the Canes a mid-season report card. I'll rate the players and coaches specifically, and the team as a whole.

It might be more than I can chew, but I'll go for it.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Canes defeat Ducks 4-2

Carolina played a very solid game on Friday following the frustrating loss to Buffalo on Thursday. The result was a 4-2 win over the Ducks. They were injury riddled, but the Canes will offer no sympathy in that department, as they are also depleted. What follows is the period-by-period updates done during intermissions. It'll take the place of my usual game recap. I left the comments (I was the only one playing along) in.

The Canes tested Wall early and often. He answered the bell a couple of times in the first minute, and looked much better than his inexperience would suggest.

--7:42 Ray Whitney scores on a beautiful one-timer from Justin Williams. Avi Tanabe got the second assist. Tanabe (playing for the first time in weeks) started at the right point, worked his way across the ice, then dropped it back to Viva. He made a perfect tape-to-tape pass to The Wizard, who blasted the one-timer past Wall on the stick side.

Formally speaking, it was a power play goal at 7:42 of the first. Whitney from Williams and Tanabe.

Moments later, Carolina was on another power play and had a couple of great chances denied by Wall. In particular a really nice one on Scott Walker.

Late in the first, Carolina had another great chance turned aside by the rookie. Cory Stillman had a great breakaway chance that Wall made a really nice glove save on.

After 20 minutes, I like the way things look. Carolina will have to avoid the second period lull that has plagued them lately, and they will need to continue to play well on the kill.

Just :41 into the second, Teemu Selanne unleashed a howitzer from the high slot that beat Ward badly on the glove side. Ward didn't have a chance on the play. Scott Niedermayer and Mike Wall got the assists.

At 3:22, Selanne struck again. During a Ducks power play, he slapped one in from the left circle, beating Ward stick side. Chris Pronger and Andy McDonald got the assists.

At this point, it looked like Carolina might have been slipping, hitting the "lull". Fortunately, they were able to right the ship quickly.

Rod Brind'Amour evened the score at the 4:31 mark on a power play marker. Ray Whitney made a really nifty move to work his way through traffic in the high slot, then wristed a shot that was ever so slightly deflected by Brind'Amour. I thought it was Whitney's goal, but the replays got a good look at the deflection. Avi Tanabe got the second helper.

At 6:57, Viva put the Canes in front with his 19th goal of the season. He let one go from the inside hash marks of the left circle. Brind'Amour and Whitney got the helpers.

So far, the Wizard has three points while Viva, Brind'Amour, and Avi each have two.

I'd still like to get Cole involved, but so far, so good.

A quick period. The only goal was an empty netter at 19:30 by Erik Cole. Chris Pronger was gone for a double minor high sticking, and Wall was gone for the extra attacker. Carolina managed to work the puck to center ice, but missed two shots from that distance. After the second, Cory Stillman raced down to battle for the puck. An attempted clear by the Ducks went right to Colesy high in the slot. He wristed it in with authority from there to seal the deal.

Officially, the last goal was unassisted, and was a power play goal into an empty net.

Carolina has done something that only five teams had done thus far: beat the Ducks in regulation.

Unfortunately it came at a cost: Nic Wallin had to leave the game with an "upper body concern". Now we have THREE of our top six defensemen out. Tonight, Carolina had seven defensemen dressed, so it was okay, and they'll be able to dress Keith Aucoin (scratched tonight) as the twelfth forward on Sunday night. Nothing catastrophic.

The "official" three stars of the game were Viva (third), Ray Whitney (second) and the Captain (first). This was a perfunctory gesture on "Rod Brind'Amour night" (celebrating his reaching 1,000 career points), but he was still one of the best players on the ice. As homerish as I love to be, I can't quite play it that way. There's no way to ignore the performance of Teemu Selanne, who, by the way, has 1088 points in 999 career games (counting tonight).

The RBH three stars:

Third Star: Justin Williams, CAR. GWG on 1 shot, assist, GWG, 24:02 TOI
Second Star: Teemu Selanne, ANA. 2 goals on 2 shots
First Star: Ray Whitney, CAR. 1 goal on 1 shot, 2 assists.

Carolina's power play should actually be named the game's first star. They converted three of their six chances, and in reality, it should be more like three of five. Cole scored on the front end of the double minor to Pronger, and the back end still had 1:30 remaining when time expired.

Honorary mention goes to David Tanabe, whom I have given a really hard time. He had a great game both ways, picking up two assists on the night.

At times, Carolina looked the way they did in June. Their passing was crisp, their d-men were really stepping up, they were getting to loose pucks. All of that. They deserved this huge win.

On New Year's Eve, Carolina will play host to the floundering Flyers with the traditional Dec 31 start time of 8:00 pm eastern.

Canes face Ducks

On Friday night, the best team in the West is in Raleigh to face Carolina. Anaheim has only lost five games in regulation this season, and is off to the best start in franchise history. In fact, they're off to one of the best starts in the history of the NHL.

Tonight, though, the Ducks will have to be better than the best. With Ilya Bryzgalov AND J-S Giguere both out with groin injuries, the likely starter in the net is Mike Wall. He's only started one game at the NHL level, defeating Calgary 5-3 on November 26. He came in in relief of Giggy on Tuesday, and didn't allow anything as the Ducks squeaked by the Sharks 4-3.

Even at the AHL level, Wall doesn't have much experience. He appeared in 11 games for the Portland Pirates last season with a 5-5 record and a 3.38 GAA.

Of course the Ducks have an outstanding defense, and they will need to step up to protect their rookie keeper, who may be suspect between the pipes.

Unable to score a ticket, I'll have to watch this one from home.

Before the game, there'll be a ceremony honoring the Captain Rod Brind'Amour, who scored his 1,000th career point earlier this season. In doing so, he joined a class of only 71 players.

Also, FSN South color commentator Tripp Tracy will be doing his job from an on-ice perspective. I'm assuming he'll be lodged between the two benches, and hopefully we'll get some on-ice interviews during the game. That should be fun in itself.

I hate that I'll miss this. Both for the historic night, honoring Brindy, and for the opportunity to see the best team in hockey.

Hopefully Justin Williams and Erik Cole will have big nights. Eric Staal has been ice cold lately and really needs to bring it. He won't, though.

Sadly, I have to predict that the visitors will win. The Canes are tired, frustrated and injured. The Ducks are injured but rested. I'll say 5-3 Ducks. I'll predict that Teemu Selanne will be the best player. Of course I HOPE I'm wrong.

For Ducks-centric view on tonight's matchup, visit Girl with a Puck.

Same as last night, I'll open a comment thread and I'll post an almost liveblog during teevee timeouts.

Andrew Ladd and Kevyn Adams are both back on the ice for practice, but neither will be able to re-join the team. Frantisek Kaberle is getting closer to a return, Tim Gleason won't be back till late January, and I'd just as soon never see "Avi" Tanabe again. Two star defensemen and two forwards out for us.

For the Ducks, Giguere and Bryzgalev are both out. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin is out with a busted spleen. Also, defenseman Sean O'Donnell is out with a cut foot. Todd Merchant has some abdominal issue which has him sidelined as well. Two goalies a star defenseman and two other players out for them.

Yesterday, the Ducks made a deal with the Blackhawks which brought them Pens castoff goaltender Sebastien Caron and some spare parts. They gave up former Cane Bruno St. Jacques. All involved parties will report to their new team at the AHL level.

Puck drop shortly after the 7:00 Brind'Amour ceremony.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Vote Daniel Briere for All-Star

In keeping with the friendly wager made with Kevin from BFLOBLOG, I am now obliged to write a gushing post about Daniel Brière.

Daniel Brière was the bastard child of a truckstop hooker. His mother abandoned him in an alleyway and he was raised by wolves.

Oh, wait. That's not true.

Daniel Brière was born October 6, 1977 in Gatineau, Quebec. This date and place will one day be the stuff holidays are made of. He loved baseball and spent a lot of time watching his beloved Montréal Expos. He probably watched on television as his future Sabres co-captain Chris Drury pitched a complete game victory and was the MVP in the championship game of the 1989 Little League World Series as Trumbull, Connecticut interrupted what would have been a six year run by Taiwan. Of course, Danny also loved hockey.

As an 18 year-old kid playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Brière notched an astonishing 163 points (67/96) in 67 games played.
Unfortunately for Brière, NHL scouts told him that there was no way a guy of his size could make it in the NHL. He was just 5'8" and weighed only 150 pounds.

At that young age, Brière decided that he wasn't going to let anyone tell him "No". Instead of giving up, or switching to baseball or tennis or soccer, he worked even harder and gained attention despite his tiny size.

In the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, which has since been determined to be the weakest in history, Brière slipped all the way to the 24th pick, where he was selected by Phoenix. In hindsight, those 23 GMs who selected other players with their first round pick look like fools. Only a handful of players in that class ever made it to the NHL, and obviously, none of them can hold a candle to Brière.

He spent one more season in Drummondville, where he notched 130 points (52/78) in 59 games. Then one season with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL, where he had 92 (36/56) points in 68 games. He won the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award for being the top rookie in the AHL that year. After the Falcons were eliminated from Calder Cup playoffs, he joined the big team for the remainder of the 1997-98 season. He only appeared in five games, and only registered one point, but he scored a goal in his second NHL appearance.

As part of his off season training, Brière used to employ the help of Hugo Girard, who was a World's Strongest Man contestant from the same home town as Daniel. He knew that at 5'10" he was always going to be one of the smallest players in the League. He was determined, though, to be one of the strongest.

It took a few years of bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL, but Brière finally settled in to the NHL in the 2001-02 season, when he played 78 games for the Yotes, notching 60 points (32/28). The goals and points totals were tops on the team that season.

At the trade deadline in 2003, Darcy Regier orchestrated one of the best trades in history. He sent Chris Gratton and a 4th round 2004 draft selection to the 'Yotes in exchange for Brière and a 3rd round selection in 04. Both the player and the pick are better deals for Buffalo.

Including tonight's game, Brière has appeared in 181 regular season games for the Sabres and has recorded 179 points (74/105).

If not for a cheap shot from Darius Kaspiaritis last season, Brière would have been among the league leaders in points, goals, and assists. In just 48 games, he had 58 points (25/33). Compounded over a full healthy season, that's like scoring 43 goals and 56 assists. Those would have been good enough to put him in the top ten in goals and points.

In the playoffs, while the hockey gods unjustly saw fit to decimate the Sabres lineup with injuries, Brière was a stud. In 18 games, he tallied 19 points (8/11). That's in the top nine in every category. Had it been the Sabres, and not the Canes, in the Stanley Cup Finals, Brière surely would have kept his point-a-night pace up and would have clearly been the best player in the playoffs. He might have been anyway. Certainly it would be his name, and not that of Cam Ward, on the Conn Smythe.

Daniel Brière will never be the biggest guy on the ice. Through very hard work and determination, he has made himself into one of the quickest, one of the strongest, and one of the most talented players in the League. With that kind of talent, unfortunately, comes the haters. People dislike Brière, saying things like "he's a little bitch" or "he's cocky" or things of this nature. All they're really saying is "I'd be proud to have that guy on my team".

Last summer, the 29-year-old was one of 11 Sabres players who filed for salary arbitration. His case was heard first. In fact, his was the first arbitration hearing for the entire League. After a loooong hearing, the arbiter came back with a ruling that stunned a lot of people -- $5M. He went from making $1.93 to making more than 2 1/2 times that. It's worth every penny.

For his off season training, paralleled only by Rod Brind'Amour, his hard work, his speed, his strength, his skill, his leadership on and off the ice, Daniel Brière is a player that every fan should love.

Vote Brière for All-Star. Vote often.

Off the ice, Brière has a wife Sylvie(who is, apparently, queen of the pick-up games) and three sons Caelan, Carson, and Cameron. All are under the age of 9 and they're all making an effort to follow in their father's footsteps. During the second intermission of the Canes-Sabres game, the Canes TV aired a piece about Brière, and it's obvious that he's a really good dad to those boys.

Vote for Brière, vote often.

open thread -- Sabres 4 - Canes 1

I can't quite "liveblog", but I'll update this thing during intermissions and I might post comments during teevee timeouts.

The annoying word verification has been temporarily disabled, so comment away!

Good stuff. Carolina has to be given a slight edge. The teams took turns controlling the pace for two minute increments, but Carolina dominated the shots on goal statistic. After 20 minutes, Carolina has taken 10 shots and Buffalo just one.

Ryan Miller has been great. He's made probably three highlight reel saves. One on an Erik Cole one-timer, one on a Ray Whitney attempt from the low slot, and one on a Justin Williams wrap chance.

If the rest of the game is like this, I wouldn't mind a loss. Of course a win would be much better.

Just one penalty so far, which is mildly surprising given that Captain Hairspray is the charge official.

1:21. Jason Pominville stuffed in a rebound from close range. Jochen Hecht and Teppo Numinen Daniel Briere got the helpers. Peter Laviolette was barking at the officials about something, but the only thing he should be mad about is his goaltender's inability to control rebounds. Actually, J-Pom stole it from someone (I think Commodore). Either way, I didn't like it.

2:52. Chris Drury attempted a wrap around, then backhanded the rebound in. Unassisted goal. Paul Gaustad with the lone assist.

I really don't like the way Crackers is handling rebounds. Buffalo has also shown that it's not so much about quantity of shots as it is quality.

The Canes mounted a shorthanded rush, and after an unsuccessful shot, Maxim Afenogenov checked Viva into the boards a little rough. A little extra stuff with hands to the face, but nothing all that bad. The two squared off, and there wasn't much of a fight as Afenogenov threw Williams down. Brind'Amour was upset, in case you're wondering, because after both linesman intervened and Williams was down and out, Maxi kept throwing punches. The only penalties were to each player for fighting.

16:18. Tomas Vanek set a beautiful screen in front of Grahame, which ultimately allowed him to give the Sabres the field goal lead. The intitial shot from the right circle (and the primary assist) was Jaro Spacek. The second helper was to Derek Roy.

Once again, Carolina registered 10 shots, but Ryan Miller answered the bell every time. He fumbled with one, but a heads up play by a Sabres defenseman prevented Eric Belanger from getting to a loose puck with an open net.

John Grahame is really struggling with his rebounds. Too many of them are going right to the doorstep, where the Sabres are able to capitalize.

It's never too late, but I'm just about ready to start drafting my "Danny Briere is kool" post.

Carolina continued to get a bunch of shots on net, but every single time Ryan Miller was on point. His rebound control was excellent, and his defense was great in front of him. The few rebounds that Miller allowed were kicked out to the corners or were handled by the defense. Carolina wasn't getting any of the second chances that Buffalo got and took advantage of.

18:51. Carolina stunned me by avoiding the shutout. CrAdams potted a shorthander from above the right circle. Miller got a pad on it, but it snuck through him. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose and Rod Brind'Amour had the assists.

19:18. During the same Sabres power play, Erik Cole caught up to a breaking away Ales Kotalik, and hooked him. Unfortunately, the referees determined that the criteria were met for a penalty shot. It was the first in Kotalik's career, and he made good on it. He came straight down broadway and at the very last second, made a subtle move to the backhand and beat Grahame like that. Technically speaking, it was a power play goal.

Ryan Miller was far and away the best player on the ice tonight, and it's tough to discern the remaining two stars. "Officially", they were Paul Gaustad (third) and Tomas Vanek (second). The way I see it is only slightly different. The RBH three stars:

Third Star Tomas Vanek, BUF. goal
Second Star Jason Pominville, BUF. goal
First Star Ryan Miller, BUF. 29 saves

For one period, Carolina was good. For one they were bad. For one they were about even. The bad one cost them.

Ray Whitney saw a five game point streak end, and Justin Williams saw an eight game point streak end. Eric Staal looked terrible.

Although the Canes TV announcers think otherwise, I think it's pretty clear that Carolina can't run with Buffalo. They won't have time to cry into their Stanley Cup either. They've got to fly home and play the NHL best Ducks, who are already in Raleigh waiting. Even with injuries to both goaltenders and three other players, the Ducks are a juggernaut, and a well rested one. The Flyers, who are busy snapping their 10-game losing streak, will also be in Raleigh waiting for the Canes.

I guess I better get to finding ways to compliment Daniel Briere.

you gotta know when to hold 'em

I have just engaged Kevin BFLOBLOG in a friendly wager for tonight's game.

Oddly enough, both of us find this "wager" to be against our better judgement, but it's all in good fun.

If the Sabres should happen to win tonight, sweeping the season series with the Canes, I shall have to write a post in tribute to Daniel Briere.

If the Canes should happen to win tonight, avoiding the sweep, Kevin will have to write a post in tribute to Rod Brind'Amour.

I guess I'll have to do some research about "emo boy" in order to prepare myself for what might become.

Normally, tonight (Thursday) would be Scrabble night, but that's being postponed for this. Truthfully, it's being postponed because the other guy is going to a basketball game, but that's just splitting hairs.

Buffalo will be completely healthy, ignoring Tim Connolly, who isn't likely to ever return.

Carolina.... not so much. They will be missing Defensemen Tim Gleason (foot -- four weeks), David Tanabe (lower body, lousy play -- indefinite) and Frantisek Kaberle (shoulder, late January). In addition, they will be missing Andrew Ladd (appendix -- three weeks) and Kevyn Adams (wrist -- two weeks). Kaberle hasn't played all season, and Adams hasn't been 100% all season. That wrist issue is lingering from breaking it in the first period of Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Tanabe would be a scratch anyway, Gleason would be a second pair defenseman and Kaberle is the best dman we have. Adrew Ladd has seen an increase in ice time and responsibilities, and he would be a third line winger while Kevyn Adams is the fourth line center. Missing Adams and Tanabe isn't a problem, and we've been missing Kaberle all season, but it sure stinks to be without Ladd and Gleason.

On a brighter note, the Sabres haven't seen Cory Stillman this season, and the Canes game has improved dramatically since his return from shoulder surgery.

There is no Sabres player with a points streak of more than three games, but Ales Kotalik is on fire of late. He's notched 7 points (4/3) in the last four games. The Canes will need to look out for him. And as always, the Captain, and the other "usuals" -- Maxim Afenogenov, Chris Drury and Jason Pominville.

On the Canes side, Justin Williams is the Canes hottest player. Viva is in the midst of an eight game points streak during which he's notched 9 points (7/2). Ray Whitney is on a five game tear, putting up 8 points (3/5) in that span. Aside from the usual suspects of Brind'Amour, Staal and Cole, the Sabres will have to look out for these two "under the radar" guys plus Stillman.

Expect to see Miller and Ward in the nets for their respective teams.

Puck drop is at 7:00. I'll be posting between periods and I'll leave the thread open for comments.

Canes to face huge test

Tonight the Canes will take their five game win streak to the HSBC Arena to face the East's best team. BFLOBLOG and Sabre Rattling has all the views from Western New York. Yeah, I know Tom's not in WNY, but still...

As if that wasn't bad enough, they'll have to travel and have about 16 hours to prepare for the West's best team. Finny from Girl with a Puck will have all the Ducks coverage on that one. Unfortunately, I won't be in the arena for that one. It's not in my ticket package, and I can't find anyone who has an extra or will just give me a ticket.

Buckle up. These next two should be good.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Canes beat Cats 4-2

On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes weren't at their best, but fortunately they were good enough to beat the Panthers 4-2. The win extends their streak to five games, but they were unable to pick up ground in either the Southeast Division or the Eastern Conference. Atlanta and Buffalo both won their games as well.

4:18 into the first period, Nathan Horton took advantage of some sloppy play by the Canes. He came through the right circle hard to the net and beat Cam Ward easily. Bryan Allen and Steve Montador got the assists. Craig Adams sort of messed it up by giving up on the play and bailing out in neutral ice. Bret Hedican was the only defenseman back, and he couldn't get over in time to cover Horton.

Carolina wasn't getting many chances in the second, and it looked like we might be in for a long night. At 15:40, however, Viva broke in on Alex Auld with Eric Staal trailing. He came down the left side towards the net, faked a move to the backhand, hesitated ever so slightly, then wristed one in off the right post. Nic Wallin and Eric Staal got the assists. The goal, his seventh in his last seven games, stretched his points streak to eight games and his goal streak to four games. During the eight game streak, he's notched nine points (7/2). He's on pace for a 39 goal season, which would be a new career best.

As the third period began, the Canes were enjoying a four-on-three sequence, and they used it to their advantage. At 0:50 of the final frame, Rod Brind'Amour gave the home team the lead for good. From the top of the right circle, Eric Staal threw a pass in the Captain's skates down in the low slot. The "pass" bounced off Brindy's skate and in the goal. At first it looked like he had backhanded it in, but when they reviewed it, I knew it must have gone in off the skate. The determination was that there wasn't a kicking motion, so the goal was allowed to stand. Staal had the primary assist, and Ray Whitney the second.

At 12:15, Scott Walker worked really hard to extend the lead to 3-1. He came through the slot on a semi-break and although he didn't have the easiest time of it, he beat Auld on what would eventually be the game winner. Trevor Letowski and Anton Babchuk got the assists.

Nathan Horton, who had two assists versus the Canes on Saturday night, got his second goal of the night at 15:49. With four points in the last two games, Horton probably wishes he could play against the Canes every night. Olli "I look like a child molester" Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester got the assists.

With Alex Auld pulled for an extra attacker, Cory Stillman worked patiently to get an empty net goal at 19:20. It was his first goal of the season, and he now has eight points in just seven games played. He had the puck down on the Carolina blue line, and worked his way out to center ice, where a lot of less patient guys would have fired a shot. He worked his way through some traffic, had drawn a penalty, but he was able to hit the bullseye with a backhand from the Panthers blue line. Glen Wesley had the lone helper.

The first period was fairly bad. The second was terrible. Aside from the Viva goal, nothing went right. The Canes couldn't apply any pressure, couldn't maintain possession, and couldn't get any shots off. Also, after delivering a huge check on Steve Montador behind the Florida goal, Craig Adams was engaged by Montador. After some dancing and disrobing, CrAdams went on to get his butt whipped. Montador delivered a few consecutive right jabs, and CrAdams couldn't even come close to landing a punch.

During the third, though, everything went right. The Canes were able to dominate puck possession and puck position, keeping it deep in the Florida zone for extended periods.

Inside the arena, the three stars went to Nathan Horton (third), Eric Staal (second) and Viva (first). The "official" stars went to Horton, Cole and Viva. I very nearly called them the same way the arena did, but I thought Horton was better than that, and that Viva wasn't quite deserving of the first star. The RBH three stars, then, are:
Third Star: Justin Williams, CAR. goal
Second Star: Nathan Horton, FLA. 2 goals
First Star: Eric Staal, CAR. 2 assists

Carolina has won the fifth game in a row, and as I predicted, Viva had a good game.

The going is about to get really rough for a short period of time. The Canes will have their 11th back-to-back this weekend, and it sure isn't a pretty one. On Thursday, the Canes will go to the HSBC Arena to take on the red-hot Sabres. Then they'll come right back home to host the glowing hot Ducks on Friday. The two best teams in hockey on consecutive nights. Fortunately, in the second half of the season, the Canes will only have 4 of these back-to-back situations.

By contrast, the Sabres have only had five back-to-back situations thus far and will have ten of them in the "second half". I'd much rather have it our way.

Hockey Night in Carolina -- Canes v Cats

Tonight, the Canes will host the Panthers in the back end of a home-and-home that started on Friday in Fort Lauderdale. The Canes will attempt to win their fifth game in a row while the Cats will attempt to rebound from a disappointing loss on Saturday.

Heading into the game Saturday night, both teams had a three game winning streak, and the host team was resting, waiting for the Canes who played on Friday night in Raleigh. The Panthers got out to a very early lead, scoring just 24 seconds into the first period. Olli Jokinen ripped one from high in the slot, beating Johnny Crackers cleanly. Nathan Horton and Jay Bouwmeester got the assists.

Before the 6:00 mark, the Canes were already down 2-0, and things didn't look good. Gary Roberts knocked one in with assists from Jokinen and Horton at the 5:36.

Ray Whitney cut the lead in half at 10:19. Rod Brind'Amour and Mike Commodore got helpers. Brind'Amour coralled a loose puck below the goal line and drew a double team. He found Whitney all alone in the right faceoff circle, where he slapped it past Ed "Billion Dollar" Belfour.

At 16:13 of the second, the red hot Viva tied it up. Ray Whitney forced a turnover right at the Florida blue line and made a perfect pass to Viva who was creeping through the left circle into the low slot. A flick of the wrist later, the score was knotted at two. Whitney got the only assist.

There would be no more scoring in the second, or the third.

Thirty seconds into the extra frame, Bouwmeester was whistled for tripping. Most reporters called it "questionable", but that's being generous. It was a bad call. It benefited the Canes, so I can't complain, but it was a bad call. The resulting power play paid off for the Canes when Erik Cole had his stick in the right place at the right time to put a rebound in at 1:59 of overtime. Belfour made a stick save on Scott Walker's shot from the left circle, and Cole was in the low slot to grab the rebound. On the radio, he said that he intended to settle the puck, then shoot it, but it was such a hard rebound that it pinballed in off his stick. Right place right time.

Carolina only managed to put 17 shots on goal, and for the first part of the first period, they didn't look good. They rebounded well enough to force overtime and got a lucky bounce for what seems like the first time all season. And of course, I 'll mention again that they were on the receiving end of a gift power play.

Last season, Carolina strung together two separate nine-game winning streaks in the regular season and a seven-game winning streak in the playoffs. This season, the four game streak they are currently on is the longest.

Puck drop tonight is 7:00 eastern, and it isn't televised.

Viva has a seven game point streak. Erik Cole has a five game streak and Ray Whitney has a four game streak. Personally, I'll be expecting a big game out of Viva tonight.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Canes win third straight

On Friday night, the Hurricanes won their third straight game in decisive fashion by defeating the visiting Islanders 5-1. Thanks in part to some good bounces, a crappy goaltender, and an active power play unit, the boys in red made it look easy.

Before getting into game summary mode, I'd like to give Tim Gleason some mad props. He had a really amazing game. There's no doubt in my mind that he was Carolina's best defenseman tonight, and was one of the best players on either team. In the first period, especially, he made some great poke checks and had some very nice stick work to deny scoring chances.

In the post game presser, Isles coach Ted Nolan quipped
"Every team in the league has bad games, and we certainly had an off one tonight,"

Goaltender Rick DiPietro blamed the loss on the fact that they're basking in the glow of their win in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
"We had to follow it up with a big win, or at least a hard-fought effort. It's a terrible excuse to lose a game. We can't win one and then lose one because you're drained emotionally."

What? You're serious? On two days rest you can't recharge your "emotional batteries"?

In case you're scoring along at home, DiPietro will be in an Islanders sweater for 1,197 more games and 118 of them will be against the Rangers. That's a drop in the bucket. If he only wants to show up "emotionally" less than 10% of the time, it will be a VERY long 5,226 days on Lawn Guylund. Drop the high school theatrics, Ricky.

Rod Brind'Amour got the scoring started at 3:54 of the first during a five-on-three sequence. From the low slot area, Brindy had a couple of whacks at it, and finally, with Di-P laying flat on his back, the Captain got it past him. The assists went to Bret Hedican Cory Stillman and Ray Whitney.

At 12:52, Viva potted what would end up being the game winning power play goal. Whitney fired a shot that bounced around a lot, and somehow found Williams all alone in the lower part of the left faceoff circle. He easily beat the $67.5 Million Man. Whitney and Brind'Amour got the assists. Viva now has 16 goals and is still on pace for a 77 point season. He's now riding a six game point streak.

Erik Cole, who was the best Eric/k of the night got the Canes only even strength goal at 1:53 of the second. Di-P gave up a big rebound on a Cory Stillman shot, setting up Cole in the slot. His wrister from there should have been an easy read, but it slowly trickled through Ricky's five hole for a 3-0 Canes lead. Stillman and Eric Staal (third best Eric/k) got the assists.

Eric Belanger (second best Eric/k) scored a very authoritative power play goal at 6:15, making the game look like somewhat of a mockery. He slapped one in from the right faceoff dot after settling a cross-ice pass from Brind'Amour. Secondary assist went to Glen Wesley.

Scott Walker, who was one of two gentlemen to hand Brendan Witt his ass, got the Canes fifth and final goal at 1:43 of the third. After forcing a turnover deep in the Isles end, Cory Stillman fed Walker in the low slot. He slapped it in from there, which prompted the crowd to sing another rendition of "DiPietro, you suck"

Cam Ward's shutout bid was ended at 8:09 of the third. Chris Simon picked up a loose puck and fired it past Ward from the right side of the net. Jason Blake and Alexi Yashin got the assists.

The Canes, whose power play had been atrocious all season, got four goals with a man advantage, and were four out of nine total. That's very good, and the lively power play has everything to do with Cory Stillman. He had three assists, and now has six total in only four games.

I swore that Carolina was whistled for another one of those delay of game(puck in crowd) penalties midway through the third, which would have been SIX GAMES IN A ROW. However, the penalty turned out to be Brind'Amour for roughing. Okay. Whatever.

Brendan Witt twice enraged the Canes. Late in the first, he got tangled with Scott Walker behind the Isles net. A scrum ensued and Walker eventually got the KO. I can only guess that Witt said some ungentlemanly things about Walker's wife, because after Witt was down, Walker continued to pummel him. After the linesman pulled them apart, Walker wasn't ready to let it go.

Midway through the third, Mike Commodore took offense to Witt running Cam Ward. The two discarded their equipment and duked it at Carolina's blue line, with Commodore eventually earning the upper hand.

The "official" three stars went to Viva (third), Stillman (second) and Brind'Amour (first). I didn't quite see it that way. The RBH three stars:

Third Star Tim Gleason, CAR
Second Star Justin Williams, CAR -- Game winning goal
First Star Cory Stillman, CAR -- 3 assists

Carolina will travel to Florida for a Saturday night game against the Panthers

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Things not going well in Philly. (off topic, NBA)

In the City of Brotherly Love, which is prepping itself for the theatrical release of "Rocky Balboa", not much else is going well in the world of sports.

Neither the Flyers, nor the NBA Sixers have won in the month of December. While the Flyers have lost seven games in a row, the Sixers skid has reached 11 games. And to add insult to injury, their star player Allen Iverson has been traded to Denver for a couple of role players and draft picks. Don't ask me to analyse that trade because I don't pay attention to the NBA. However, I do know AI's aversion to practice, and here's the infamous press conference where he defends his decision to sit out of practice.
"How the hell can I make my teammates better by practice?"


At the very least, the Flyers still have their Captain. Oh wait.... Foppa has concussion issues.


My inside sources tell me that Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl requires his players to show up for practice.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Canes hand Flyers record-setting loss

On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes picked up their second win in a row and handed the Flyers their seventh loss in a row 2-1. The losing skid sets a new benchmark in futility for the Orange and Black. It might not end any time soon, as their next game is in Montréal on Thursday night.

Elsewhere, the Caps lost, which allowed the Canes to leapfrog them into second place in the Southeast Division. Division leader Atlanta won their game in a shootout, maintaining a six point cushion over the Canes. Yeah. It's wicked early to think about the playoffs already.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Rod Brind'Amour was back in the lineup tonight, and no worse for the wear. He logged more than 25 minutes of ice time and took 31 of the team's 61 faceoffs. He was, actually, a little below his normal 60% winning per centage, but we'll gladly take his 54%. Since he was able to play, there was no need to recall Dave Gove or Ryan Bayda.

The story of the night, though, was Carolina's defensemen. They were sharp. In particular, Anton Babchuk had a great game. Defensively, he had two blocked shots and a number of timely poke-checks. Offensively, he did a great job of joining the rush, and ended up with the game-winning goal.

Carolina was buzzing around the net all game long, and if not for a heroic effort by Antero Nittymaki, it might have been 8-1. Erik Cole had a number of good chances, and poor Ray Whitney hit the post twice, and was robbed a couple of times. He picked up an assist on Caroina's first goal, but had nothing else to show for his great effort.

At 12:41 of the first, Viva was on the right side of the net to tip in a point blast from Andrew Hutchinson. The "shot" was well off net, but Viva was in the perfect place to lift it up and over Nittymaki. Ray Whitney picked up the secondary assist. Viva now has a five game point streak, and is on pace for a 77 point (35/42) season. Last season, his 76 points landed him in 36th place in the League in scoring. Somehow, he's still a player that nobody knows.

Early in the second period, Carolina decided to make it FIVE GAMES IN A ROW with one of those delaying the game (puck in crowd) penalties. This time Mike Commodore was the culprit. Scott Cason hates this rule, and one of these days, we'll get a discussion going over at SESO about this. I don't hate the rule in principle. I hate the way it's adjudicated. I think this is where Cason has issue: I think there out to be some discretionary wiggle room for the refs. They have a lot of wiggle room with the enforcement of goaltender interference, or with the awarding of penalty shots. I wish they had the same for this. Actually, I've got a whole different proposal, but that's for another post. The thing is that the players know that the rule is there and that the refs have to enforce it. There's no point in trying those cute bank passes off the glass if you're a defenseman with marginal puckhandling skills.

The penalty ended up being no harm because the Flyers couldn't stay out of the box in the second period, and they were only able to enjoy one minute of the resultant power play before they made it four-on-four hockey. During this segment, Anton Babchuk showed flashes of offensive brilliance in beating Nittymaki. From the right point, Babs faked a slap shot, forced Nittymaki to come way out, and beat him badly high on the glove side. Erik Cole got the only assist.

At 14:05 of the third, Simon Gagne ended Cam Ward's shuotout bid by re-directing a left circle blast from Randy Jones. Joni Pitkanen got the second assist.

Philly was unable to knot it up, nor was Carolina able to pot an empty net goal after Nittymaki was lifted.

The "official" three stars went to Anton Babchuk (third), Antero Nittymaki (second) and Viva(first). I don't quite see it that way. The RBH three stars:
Third Star Ray Whitney, CAR. 1 assist
Second Star Antero Nittymaki, PHI. 40 saves
First Star Anton Babchuk, CAR. game winning goal

Carolina is off until Friday, when the Islanders come to town.

Another weird hockey dream

I think I need to check myself into a clinic or something. There's something seriously wrong with me. I'm seriously starting to wonder if I'm a Canucks fan in Canes fan clothing.
Remember in March when I had a dream about being kidnapped and brainwashed by 'Nucks operatives? Yeah. It was all crazy Manchurian Candidate style. Not the Jonathan Demme vehicle starring Liev Schrieber and Denzel Washington. That was garbage. I mean the John Frankenheimer film with Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra. I was scared, and a bunch of people joked that I was secretly a Canucks fan. Maybe they're right.

On Sunday night, after attending the holiday parties of both of my places of work (read: getting piss babbling drunk), I came home and passed out on my couch sitting upright with my suit still on. I didn't wake up until I was already an hour late for work Monday morning, and I didn't sober up until about 4 pm. During the few hours of drunken sleep, I had the following dream.

(Cue dream sequence harp music)

Keith Primeau was cleared by doctors and decided to come out of retirement. He was picked up by the Canucks. As soon as the news broke, I was really excited. (In real life, I HATE Keith Primeau with burning passion). I wanted to see him play, and since the Nucks don't visit Carolina until 2007-08, I traveled to Nashville to see Primeau and the Nucks take on the Preds.

The Preds were having their way early. JP Dumont had two goals to lead the way for the Preds to take a 3-1 lead in the first. As soon as the second period started, Marek Zidlicky checked Primeau hard into the boards along the players' bench area. Primeau picked himself up and for some reason went after Trevor Linden for retribution. His own teammate! Linden was, of course, stunned, as was every person in the building. Primeau kept swinging at him and eventually, Linden had to retaliate in kind. The two teammates traded punches for several seconds as everyone watched in confused silence. For some reason, even though I was at the game, I was also watching it on television. The play-by-play guy, not knowing what else to say, said "Well... Sometimes this happens." After the "fight" ended, there were several moments of confusion at the scorers' table, and ultimately, Primeau was ejected and Linden forced to sit five minutes in the box.

Wow. I have no idea. I keep having these bizarre whacked out dreams about the Nucks. Either I am a closet Nucks fan, or I really was brainwashed. And Primeau? Seriously? I hate that dude so much.
Of course I consumed enough alcohol that night to kill a small dog. Maybe that has something to do with it. For what it's worth, I have never in my life felt as crappy as I did Monday. All day Monday. Let that be a lesson. There's no such thing as free beer. Even when there's no out-of-pocket expense, that 9% ABV stuff that I was drinking will bite you in the ass one way or another.

K-Ads to undergo wrist surgery

For all the people who have been making up rumors about Kevyn Adams being in Peter Laviolette's doghouse, there came some proof that his diminished ice time had nothing to do with that. Adams has been playing hurt, with a bad right wrist. Today he went to the doctor and was informed that he would need a "procedure" that will sideline him for one to two weeks.

Of all places to get this news, I read it on the Leafs site while I was investigating the rumors about a new logo for them. Here's the story from Toronto. Nothing in the N&O as of the time I'm writing this, but the Canes site has the same story.

According to other reports, he's still suffering repercussions from the injury he sustained in the first period of Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Before it was known that he needed the procedure, Adams commented about his diminished ice time (a hot button issue on Canes boards) saying that it's not entirely about injuries. From Today's N&O:
"I feel like I've been trying to battle through it and trying to figure out what's going on," Adams said. "But there's a lot of games this year where I'm only playing a couple shifts, and injuries haven't been an issue."

Adams said his health had not been a topic of conversation with his coaches before Monday.

"My ice time is not what it has been in the past, and in part, it's a coach's decision," Adams said. "If at the end of the day what I do isn't what they're looking for, then you just have to deal with that.

Coach Peter Laviolette and GM Jim Rutherford both offered votes of confidence, indicating that K-Ads is an important part of the team.

With Wallin and "Avi" Tanabe still out, dressing seven defensemen isn't an option. With Andrew Ladd still on the mend, and Rod Brind'Amour a "game time decision", it's likely that that leaves only 11 forwards. I suspect Dave Gove gets called up from Albany. Perhaps Ryan Bayda.

The Canes will be in Philly tonight where they will attempt to help the Flyers set a new mark in futility. If the Canes are able to win, it will mean the Flyers will have lost seven games in a row, which will be a franchise record.

Puck drop is at 7

Monday, December 18, 2006

bloggers on the move

I just noticed that Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed has packed up and moved after a few weeks of rumors and threats. Now she's part of the Kukla Kingdom. Alanah says it was about "an offer (she) couldn't refuse", but I suspect that the move had something to do with a bottle of whiskey, reruns of Alf and a huge bucket of cheese flavored popcorn. Anyway, she's officially done with VCOE and can now be found at Canucks and Beyond. Adjust your life in the manner you see fit.

After a few months in hiding, Abel to Yzerman re-appeared last month, and I put him back in my blogroll without mentioning it. He's also part of Team Kukla and continues to blog at a dizzying pace at his new digs.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Carolina snaps out of it, back in playoff picture

On Saturday night, the Canes found a way to snap out of their losing skid by winning a road game against the struggling Lightning. Although they finally won a game after losing five in a row, some disturbing trends continued and they'll have to continue to improve if they want to make any postseason plans.

One of the continuing trends was that the other team scored first. This time, though, it wasn't in the game's opening moments. In fact, there was no scoring in the first. Ryan Craig was left alone on the front doorstep, and Brad Richards found him with a beautiful pass from behind the goal line for the easy goal at 7:49 of the second. Vaclav Prospal (who I still refuse to call "Vinny") got the secondary assist.

While actually getting good puck rotation on a power play, Ray "The Wizard" Whitney weaved his way through lots of traffic in the left circle to beat Marc Denis at 13:05. Viva was all alone on the right side, but Whitney took the shot instead of passing, and beat Marc Denis on the short side. Denis anticipated the pass and wasn't really in much of a position to make the save. Keith Aucoin worked really hard to dig the puck off the half-wall, and got the lone assist.

At 12:58 of the third, Eric Staal snapped out of his own slump to give the Canes a 2-1 lead. Erik Cole should be given high praise for creating the scoring chance. He burst away from a pack of players along the wall for a one-on-one chance that snapped off the left post into the low slot. Eric Staal corralled the rebound and hacked away at it until it finally got through Denis' pads on the right side. Cole had the lone assist, and this was the second play of its kind where he just exploded to the net for a great chance. Early in the first, he was stymied on a give-and-go from Cory Stillman. Although he deserved to have scored one or both times, at least the Canes had something to show for it.

The Wizard got what looked like an insurance marker at 18:36 of the third, but it proved to be the game winner when it was all said and done. As the Bolts were about to pull Denis for an extra attacker, the Canes forced a turnover in their own zone. Viva hit Whitney at center ice with a stretch pass, and he was in all alone. Going straight down the middle, he faked a last-second move to the backhand and wristed it through Denis' five hole. Eric Belanger, who has been playing very well, got the secondary assist.

Just when we thought it was all over, I prophetically announced to the Acid Queen in an IM that we would somehow find a way to "eff it up". Sure enough, they tried to do just that. For the FOURTH GAME IN A ROW, the Canes took one of those delaying the game (puck in crowd) penalties. Coupled with the removal of Denis, the Bolts had a six-on-four advantage, and it didn't take long at all for them to convert. Martin St. Louis stuffed in a rebound from the left side of the goal at 19:04. Brad Richards fired a slapshot from above the left circle that was re-directed a time or two before Ward kicked it out to his right. St. Louis had a couple of cracks at it before lighting the lamp. It was really hard to tell exactly who did what, but the assists went to Eric Perrin and Ryan Craig.

The Canes survived the final 56 seconds, and got their first win in nearly two weeks.

Next, the Canes take their show up to the City of Brotherly Love on Tuesday night.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Canes skid continues -- Leafs 4- Canes 3

On Friday, the Canes extended their losing streak to five games by dropping a 4-3 decision to Chairman Mo and the Leafs. The loss, coupled with other goings-on in the Eastern Conference, pushed the Canes out of the playoff picture. Hopefully, this will come as a big wake-up call. Tonight the Canes will have a chance to snap out of it with a game in the City of Tampa against the slumping Bolts. Both the Canes and the Lightning have a 3-6-1 record in their last 10.

Although the officiating was suspect at times last night, I don't wish to write about how dodgy officiating hurt us. The referees weren't the ones failing to get to loose pucks in the defensive zone. The referees weren't the ones making sloppy line changes. The referees weren't the ones turning the puck over in neutral ice. The refs weren't the ones committing STUPID penalties in the defensive end and selfish ones in the offensive end. The Canes players are guilty of all these things and more. As fun as it is to point fingers and say that the refs "jobbed" us, the fact of the matter is that the Canes didn't play well and they deserved to lose.

Before the game, defenseman Nic Wallin went down with a "lower body injury". The Captain is still out, and in fact unable to practice. The breaking news was that big left wing Andrew Ladd had an emergency appendectomy on Thursday night, and is expected to miss three to four weeks. The Canes were forced to recall Keith Aucoin from the AHL River Rats. Aucoin is a gritty player with a yeoman-like work ethic. He's another Chad LaRose, in more ways than one. He hustles and provides great energy, but he's 5'9" 187lbs. He gives up five inches and fifteen pounds to Ladd, and he's no good on the forecheck. Add him to the list of "water bugs" on the Canes forwards roster. Ray Whitney, Trevor Letowski, Scott Walker, Chad LaRose, and now Keith Aucoin all come in at 5'10" or less and 195lbs or less. Expect the Canes to get pushed around a lot in the coming weeks until we can get some bigger bodies back in the lineup.

At 16:00 of the first, Erik Cole netted an eye-popping goal that appeared to get the Canes off and running. After forcing a turnover in the defensive zone, Cory Stillman banked a long stretch pass off the wall to Cole, hitting the Leafs blue line just as the puck got there. Andrew Raycroft was coming out of net to play the puck and got caught in no-man's land. All alone, Cole drove to the net, hesitated long enough for Raycroft to get going the wrong way, then shoved it in. Stillman got the first assist and Eric Staal got the second.

At 18:02, Mats "Skeletor" Sundin got a semi-break away on a sloppy line change by the Canes. As Mike Commodore and Bret Hedican stood and watched, Sundin streaked in with a pass from Kyle Wellwood, made a little deke move, then pulled the puck to his forehand and easily beat Ward from right out front. Wellwood got the first assist, and Hal Gill got the second.

Midway through the second, the Canes started parading to the penalty box in twos. Glen Wesley for interference, then Anton Babchuk for ANOTHER delay of game (puck in crowd) penalty. Like it or not, this is the rule, and the Canes have got to stop doing that. Three games in a row, and probably 12 times this season. With over a minute of five-on-three time, the Leafs were able to do whatever they wanted, and Skeletor scored again at the 11:57 mark from just below the left circle. Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe got the helpers.

A few moments later, Carolina couldn't catch a break, and after Erik Cole was hauled down on a good scoring chance with no penalty, the puck crossed the line after bouncing off a Leafs skate. However, the goal was disallowed because the net had come off the moorings.

After Ray Whitney went for hooking at 16:01, the Canes were doing a good job with the kill until a mysterious interference call against Viva at 17:17 on a clearing attempt. It was hard to tell where the call came from because it was a late call, and seemed to be at the request of Darcy Tucker.

Anyway, the Canes found themselves on the short end of yet another 5-3, and it didn't take long for the visitors to capitalize. McCabe beat Ward at 17:53 with a one-timer from the top of the right circle. Tomas Kaberle and Skeletor got the assists.

Just when things started to look grim, and certain folks decided to bail, it started to look a little better. They looked a bit sharper and more desperate in the third. The Canes had a long five-on-three of their own that they couldn't punctuate, but after the first penalty expired, they still had had some normal power play time to work with, and they didn't waste it. From down in the bottom of the right circle, Eric Staal sent a pass across the goal mouth to Viva at the bottom of the left circle. It was on edge and in his skates, but he found the time to settle it and zip it past Raycroft on the far side at 6:03 of the third to make it 3-2. Cory "Steel Toed Boots" Stillman got the second assist.

At 10:58, Mike Commodore got a game-tying goal on a rebound. Scott Walker skated behind the net, faked a wrap-around, then came back to the left post for a stuff attempt that was blocked. The rebound went into the low slot where Commodore found it and sent it past Raycroft. It was great work by Walker, taking it the length of the ice, attempting the good shot, then staying in the crease area to screen the goaltender. Eric Belanger got the secondary assist.

Alex Steen had been denied a few times and clanged one off the post just before Commodore's goal, but he found the net at 14:00 for the game winner. Kaberle took a big shot from the left point, Cam gave a big rebound into the slot, and Steen finished it from there. McCabe had the second assist.

Later in the period, Carolina started to show some signs of life, but they took a stupid too many men penalty, which pretty much quashed all hopes. Later, with Cam Ward pulled for an extra attacker, there was an apparent trip that would have put the Canes on the power play, but Erik Cole was whistled for interference on the same play. No empty net goals, and the game ended 4-3.

Thus far in December, the Canes are 1-3-1, and have looked horrible. Of course they have been bitten very hard by the injury bug, but they're going to need to "man up" if they want to make the playoffs at all. The road is going to be fraught with peril and obstacles, but if they can stay the course, fate will vouchsafe their reward.

Although Brind'Amour is out indefinitely, and Ladd is out for at least three weeks, and Frantisek Kaberle is still a few weeks away, the Canes are thrilled to have Cory Stillman back. In two games this season, he's got three assists.

For once, the "official" three stars and the RBH three stars are the same:
Third Star Cory Stillman, CAR -- 2 assists
Second Star Bryan McCabe, TOR -- 1 goal, 2 assists
First Star Mats Sundin, TOR -- 2 goals, 1 assist

Tonight at the Tampa-St. Pete Times Forum, the Canes will try to get back on the right foot. With all those injuries, and the back-to-back, it's not going to be easy. This will have to be one of those "gut check" games. I'm hoping for a big night from Scott Walker and Cory Stillman. I'll expect nothing. If I were a betting man, I'd bet against the Canes.

Puck drop is 7:30.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Canes host a bunch of Canes castoffs Leafs tonight

Tonight at the RBC Center, the Canes will play host to the Leafs, and it will be a homecoming of sorts for many of the Leafs.

This will be the first time that Leafs Coach Paul Maurice has been back to Raleigh since being fired midway through the 2003-04 season. Maurice was the longest tenured coach in the League, and although he led his team to a fluke appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002, he wasn't doing well. His non-aggressive style of hoping for a 2-1 game every night landed his team in the League's basement in 2002-03 and they were headed that same way in 2003-04. After being replaced by Peter Laviolette, Maurice went to coach the AHL Toronto Marlies.

It was there that he got re-acquainted with one time Canes winger Bates Battaglia, who had a good season in 2002, but became more known for his clashes with Maurice and also for his party boy lifestyle in 2003. He was traded to Colorado for Radim Vrbata, then traded from Colorado to Washington for Steve Konowalchuk. Then he was let go. I mean really let go. He found himself down at the ECHL level. However, when Maurice was hired to coach the Marlies, he gave Battaglia a try-out, and he did well there. After a 67 (20/47) point season there last year, he has worked his way back up to the NHL level, thanks again to a chance given him by Maurice.
In the off-season, Battaglia still lives in Raleigh where he runs a really crappy bar called "Lucky B's". His father also lives in Raleigh, where he runs a restaurant or two.

Jeff O'Neill, who was once one of the star players for the Canes, fell from grace really quickly. He had a much publicized blow-up with Maurice after a bag skate, and his work ethic really started to go down hill fast in the 2003-04 season. He went from being a steady 60 point scorer to putting up 34 points that season, and he clearly wasn't putting forth any effort on the ice or in the weight room. During the lockout, he didn't play at all, choosing to get fat and drunk. He was arrested for his second DUI, and the team quickly lost their patience with him. Then tragedy struck. His brother was killed in a single car accident, and he expressed an interest in being traded to Toronto. The team obliged, making a draft day trade, essentially "letting him go". It was a perfect resolution to a sticky situation. The team wanted him out due to his poor play and poor conditioning. Aside from that, he wanted out for family reasons.

O'Neill has of course been back a couple of times last season. He was met with the same boos that he received even when he played here. I have no idea how Chairman Mo and Bates Battaglia will be greeted, but I can say that there's not a whole lot of love for either of those guys. We're happy for them that they both landed good jobs, but we still don't like them.

Puck drop at a special time of 7:30 tonight.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Carolina's losing skid, Colorado drought continue

On Monday night, the Canes took a 2-1 lead against the Avs early in the third period, but the wheels fell off and the vehicle burst into flames midway through the period. Colorado poured it on, lighting the lamp four times in an eight minute span en route to a 5-2 win, their 11th triumph in a row over the Canes. Carolina has still never beaten Colorado. Next year, the Canes will host the Avs. Until then, Colorado will remain the only team in the NHL that the Canes have never defeated.

Viva scored two goals for the Canes, and for two and a half periods, everyone looked good, but some switch went off in the third, and it all went to pot.

I missed the first goal, but it was Tyler Arnason in the low slot assisted by Patrice Windy Tree and Brett McLean at 1:22 of the first.

There were a ton of penalties against the Avs in the first period, and some of them were quite a bit ticky-tacky. The inexperienced Brian Pochmara was one of the officials, and in my opinion, he had a rough night. The last time we saw Pochmara, the Sabres came into Raleigh on November 13and bitch-slapped the Canes 7-4. Even after a victory, certain Sabres fans still moaned about the officiating. Agreeably, that was a bad night for the refs, but I'll never get fans who complain about officiating after their team wins a game in decisive fashion.

The crew last night made a disgusting mistake that benefited the Canes, and it's worth pointing out. Bear with me.
At 19:51 of the first, Brett Clark was called for a really questionable holding penalty as he battled Eric Staal in neutral ice.
At 0:13 of the second, as the Canes were working the power play, Erik Cole was driving to the net and was knocked down by Ken Klee. There was no call, and there should have been. To "make up" for it, they called a bogus hooking penalty against Brad Richardson just 8 seconds later, giving the Canes a 5-on-3. Two wrongs don't make a right, and although it benefited the Canes, I was appalled by it even before it bore fruit. As much as I dislike bad officiating, I also don't like bogus "make-up calls". It's lazy and irresponsible.

Just before the 5-on-3 expired, Viva tipped in a centering pass from Cory Stillman at the 1:44 mark of the second. Eric Staal got the second assist.

Peter Budaj and Johnny Crackers made a series of huge stops on their respective ends to keep the game knotted at one after two periods.

At 1:08 of the third, Viva gave the Canes a 2-1 lead on a weird little shot from the inside hash marks of the left circle. It should have been an easy stop by Budaj, given the highlight reel stops he'd been making, but it somehow found his five-hole. Originally, the lone assist was given to Eric Belanger down in the corner, and was a product of his excellent forechecking. However, they changed the scoring and gave the lone assist to Crackers. I guess they ruled that Belanger never had actual possession of the puck. I dunno.

For a few shining moments, it looked like Carolina would put this Colorado dry spell behind them. Andrew Brunette ended a 15 game goal-less streak by persistently hacking at some rebounds in front of Grahame. After a really good save and a foiled rebound attempt, Brunette slipped it past him at 8:46 of the third. Wojtek Wolski and Joe Sakic assisted on the play.

At 10:35, while the Avs were on the power play, J-M Liles snuck into the low slot behind Craig Adams and easily beat Crackers off the feed from Brunette. Sakic got the secondary assist.

The next time the Canes were penalized, the Avs made them pay again. Just seven seconds into a Ray Whitney tripping penalty, Sakic scored at 12:44. Whitney had himself just been the victim of an undetected hook, and he cheated a little, trying to get the advantage back. Unfortunately, he was caught. The Avs wasted no time freeing him from the box, though. Brunette and Wolski got the helpers.

They weren't done yet, and they went ahead and made it 3-3 on the power play in the third stanza. After Anton Babchuk was penalized for hooking, Pierre Turgeon scored at 16:23 from Arnason and Windy Tree.

For the first 50 minutes, Carolina looked good. They still struggled with their own power play, but Cole and Staal looked strong. Stillman was in the lineup for the first time, giving them that whole "Cory Stillman feel" that he's got in spades. Johnny G was having a tremendous game until the Liles goal. After that, he wasn't so good. Unfortunately, 50 minutes isn't good enough. They're still not playing a 60 minute game, and having injuries to key players isn't a good excuse. The Sabres didn't use "injuries" as an excuse to not try hard in the playoffs last spring. That said, we REALLY miss Brind'Amour. Especially in the face-off circle. It's painful to watch Eric Staal, who is otherwise a fantastic player, take faceoffs. He's not strong enough, quick enough, and he doesn't position himself well enough to be a dominant faceoff man like Rod is. Brindy gets much lower has a much wider stance, making his center of gravity lower, and that has to give him some advantage from a physics standpoint.

The RBH three stars:
Third Star Justin Williams, CAR. 2 goals
Second Star Andrew Brunette, COL. 1 goal, 2 assists
First Star Joe Sakic, COL. 1 goal, 2 assists

I'm skipping a Season Ticket Holders/Cup thing tonight, and I'll probably regret it later.

The Canes are off until Friday, when the Leafs come to town. They need to work on special teams in the meantime.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Canes to finish road trip in Denver tonight

Tonight at 9:30 eastern time, the Canes will finish their disastrous road trip against the Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Although they played well against the Nucks on Friday and have shown some signs of improvement, they still have some things working against them and the road won't be easy.

Carolina has struggled on the power play lately. They converted only one power play chance in their past five games. Let's face it -- They've had problems scoring any goals. On this road trip, they've been outscored 10-4 and they've looked downright awful at times. With Rod Brind'Amour out of the lineup on Friday, they struggled in the faceoff circle and through the first two periods, they struggled to get any offense going. Somehow, they dug deep and found a way, and hopefully they can build off that tonight. According to the News & Observer, The Cap couldn't make it through Sunday's practice and is "questionable" for tonight.

Cory Stillman, who was hoping to return to action on Friday, suffered a setback, but has been practicing all along. They're saying he's "cautiously optimistic" that he'll be in the lineup tonight. I wouldn't hold your breath.

Since moving to North Carolina in 1997, the Canes have never beaten the Avs in 10 tries. In fact, the Whaler/Canes haven't beaten the Nordique/Avs since Dec 15, 1995. Glen Wesley had one assist that night, and Brendan Shanahan led the way for the Whale with 2 goals and an assist.

The Avs actually have a special part in my hockey fan life. My very first NHL game was the Canes hosting the Avs in their temporary Greensboro home on November 29, 1997. The Canes scored two first period goals, but lost 3-2. Patrick Roy was sharp that night, and I remember being amazed, more than anything else, by him. That wasn't the night that turned me into a hardcore fan, but it got me along the way. It wasn't until a few years later that I would become a "real" fan, and it was because of a girl. Even a few more years before I became a "hardcore" fan, and it was because of the same girl. If I wasn't such a dumbass, I'd have married her. Instead, she lives in Wisconsin now and we haven't spoken in over two years.

Anyway, the Canes will try to get back on the right foot and end their 10 game losing streak against the pesky Avs. Puck drop at 9:30 eastern. Avs fan and occasional commenter Pat Angelo will presumably be there, as will our friend The Acid Queen.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just for fun

Even if you've got the money to spend on one of these ridiculously expensive blenders, I wouldn't suggest doing this at home. Who would do that?

If you're old enough to remember the old "Bass-o-matic" sketch on Saturday Night Live from 1976, or if you've ever seen that sketch, you'll appreciate these guys doing their "Tilapia-o-matic"

Unfortunately, the audio and video for that SNL bit aren't in synch, but you can also view it from their video archive. Click on "commercials" then you'll see Bass-o-matic as the first video. Classic stuff. "Bass-o-matic also works with sunfish, perch, sole, and other small aquatic creatures"

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Canes continue road woes in Canada

On Friday night, the Canes continued their four city eight day road trip through the Northwest Division by visiting Vancouver for the first time since December 14, 2003. They also continued their losing ways, falling to the Nucks 4-3 in overtime.

With Rod Brind'Amour out of the lineup with a groin injury and Cory Stillman's return delayed by a tweaked knee, the boys had to dig deep, and they simply didn't dig deep enough. First of all, the Canes were forced to dress seven defensemen, and for some reason the seventh was Avi Tanabe rather than Andrew Hutchinson. The three minutes of overtime notwithstanding, the forwards all saw increased ice time to make up for the absence of the Captain. The seventh defenseman obviously absorbs most of that, but then there's Trevor Letowski, who averages 11:25 of ice time, but saw 15:24 last night.

Eric Staal, who averages just over 13 faceoffs taken per game, had to take 24 faceoffs last night. Trevor Letowski, who barely takes one per game, had to take 13. Kevyn Adams, who takes 6 per game, was forced to take some key faceoffs while the Canes were perpetually short handed. Brind'Amour is one of the best in the business at taking faceoffs, normally winning about 60% of them. Last night, the Canes were collectively 43%. Last winter, this argument was beat into the ground around the blogosphere, but I still contend that winning faceoffs is a crucial element of success.

Jan Bulis started the scoring for the Nucks at 10:50 of the first. With Nic Wallin gone for tripping, the Nucks had a really nice-looking power play, ending with Bulis throwing in a really nifty backhander from the goal mouth. Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison assisted.

In the second, the Canes had a parade of guys headed to the penalty box, and the Nucks made them pay for it. Marc Chouinard picked up some loose change and beat Ward badly at 17:41. Yannick Tremblay and Morrison assisted on the power play goal.

Tremblay, who hadn't played an NHL game since the 2003-04 season, widened the Nucks lead at the 5:17 mark of the third with yet ANOTHER power play goal. He fired a one-time blast from above the left circle that found its way through and past Ward. Morrison and Naslund got the assists.

Finally, at 5:56, the Canes came out of their slumber and Craig "Hands of Feet" Adams scored for the second consecutive game. From behind the net, Eric Staal made a really amazing no-look, behind-the-back pass to CrAdams, who had snuck onto the front porch from the left circle. Yo Luongo couldn't stop the point-blank shot, and his shutout attempt was ended. Erik Cole got the other assist.

After a five-on-three advantage for the Canes had expired, there was still a little bit of normal power play, during which Erik Cole was able to bring the Canes to within one goal. The Nucks were attempting to make a short-handed line change, but didn't get the puck far enough in. The Canes came in with a three-on-one break, and Cole buried one from the low slot at 15:42. And by "buried one", I mean that his shot hit the right post, then Luongo's back, then went in. Ray Whitney and Viva assisted on the power play marker.

At 17:14, Mike Commodore brought the Canes all the way back. He fired a wrister from the right faceoff dot, and Luongo got most of it, but it snuck its way through his pads on the glove side and behind him before he knew where it was. Cole and Bret Hedican got the helpers.

As regulation expired, the Canes knew they would get at least one point, which is a small victory considering how they'd played the previous two nights.

2:16 into the overtime period, Scott Walker was guilty of delaying the game by inadvertently sending the puck over the glass from the Carolina zone. It was the second time he'd done that, and it proved to be costly. With a four-on-three power play, and a TON of open ice, the Nucks spread it around nicely, and Daniel Sedin got the easy game winner at 3:02 with assists from his brother and Tremblay. On that play, the Nucks almost lost the zone, and if you watch the NHL.com highlight, the far linesman makes the normal "on-side" signal while the near linesman makes some weird fist-pumping gesture, almost like he was about to call offside. Anyway, it wasn't offside, but I don't know what that gesture was. Henrik found Daniel all alone in the low slot, and he had an easy time beating Ward.

The Nucks were 4-9 on their power play, which is something the Canes can't be happy about, and the Canes, who had gone five games without a power play goal, went 1-7. They can't be happy about that either. Getting one standings point is small consolation, but the way they snapped to in the late stages of the game is somewhat promising. The way Carolina was the better five-on-five team is also somewhat promising. However, the special teams have to get better, and can't parade to the penalty box the way they did in the second period.

Yo Luongo was great for the Nucks. He made some really sensational saves look easy, and he turned aside a penalty shot from Eric Staal in the second period. Incidentally, I didn't agree with the awarding of a penalty shot, but any time you're given one, you gotta be happy to take it.

It was great to see Erik Cole snap out of his slump. A goal and two assists earned him one of the stars.

The "official" stars went to Daniel Sedin (third), Cole (second) and Morrison (first). If I remember correctly, the FSN South stars went to Luongo (third), Mike Commodore (second) and Sedin (first).

I saw it a little differently. The RBH three stars:

Third Star Roberto Luongo, VAN. 36 saves, PS save.
Second Star Erik Cole, CAR. Goal, 2 assists, 4 hits, +2
First Star Yannick Tremblay, VAN. Goal, 2 assists.

Carolina will travel today, then have Sunday off before taking on the Avs on Monday night. We might see Brind'Amour, but probably not Stillman. With all these injuries, I wouldn't mind seeing Keith Aucoin called up from Albany.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Canes head to Vancouver

After dropping two games badly against Cal-Gary and Edmonton, Carolina will try their luck tonight in Vancouver. Puck drop against the Canucks will be 10:00 eastern.

The Canucks are struggling of late, and some fans are calling this a must-win situation. They're just a hair under .500, and they're looking to rally the troops.

According to Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed, the Nucks are having some injury problems and some line combination problems as well. Sami Salo is out with a bum knee, and Alanah is saying that Taylor Pyatt is out as well. There's also some confusion as to who will be on the Sedin line. She recommends getting all liquored up before the game.

I'd love to heed that advice myself, but I won't make it home from work until probably the start of the third. I'll get a late start, but I'll be there (liquored up) by the end of the game.

The Canes are also having injuries of their own to deal with. Captain Rod Brind'Amour hasn't been practicing much lately, and left Wednesday's game after the second period. We might not see him tonight. Also, the highly anticipated return of Cory Stillman will have to wait. Although I already predicted that we won't see him until the 15th, they were targeting tonight. He's apparently suffered a setback unrelated to his shoulder rehab. Something about a knee. Neither player has been ruled "out", but I wouldn't hold my breath expecting to see either one.

Another great Nucks blogger, JJ Guerrero, who hasn't yet seen Eric Staal play in person, will get his first taste tonight.

Look to the above bloggers for great Nucks perspective.

You know where to look for other Canes perspective.

I'm done with these "ballsy predictions", but I sure hope Eric/k can do something tonight. They've both been a little stagnant lately.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Canes lose Cup rematch, Captain

On Wednesday night, the Canes lost to the Oilers 3-1. Turns out my prediction was pretty lousy.

I got home just in time for the third period and haven't gone back to watch from the beginning yet, but based on the third period, the Oilers were the much better team. They completely dominated the flow of the game and completely shut down Carolina's speedy skaters.

At some point in the second period, Rod Brind'Amour suffered an injury (which I haven't seen yet) that kept him from returning to the game. I can imagine the jubilation in the BoA headquarters as the Oilers won the game handily AND their least favorite player in the league got knocked out with what has only been called a "lower body" injury.

Mick McGeough is a terrible official. Oilers fans don't need to be told that. Even as an extremely biased Canes fan, there were two times during the third period that Canes players should have been penalized. With about 6 minutes to play, there was a blatant slash committed by Scott Walker behind the Canes net that was let go. There was a blatant trip committed later that was let go. Moments after the non-call with the slash, Marty Reasoner caught Mike Commodore with a blatant high-stick, opening a cut on Commy's nose. It should have been a four minute penalty, but there was none. This was the same crew that officiated the Canes-Flames game and let A LOT of stuff go for both sides. At first, I thought it was just that there was a slightly different rules interpretation in the Western Conference. After two consecutive nights, it's obvious that it's just McGeough. He's a lousy lousy official. I know he's pissed about having to wear a lid this season, but that's no excuse for being a worse ref than he already was. The thing with the phantom hand pass a few weeks ago was absolutely disgusting, and the way he called the game tonight, you wouldn't blame the players if they decided to take the law into their own hands. The League and the Officials Association need to do a better job of holding the refs accountable for poor performance.

I don't think the officiating had anything to do with the fact that Carolina lost. They lost because Edmonton was better. Like I said, I saw two obvious penalties against Carolina that weren't whistled, too.

The goal scorers for the Oil were Brad Winchester (2:30 of the second), Jason Smith (19:00 of the second) and Saint Fernando Pisani (1:44 of the third). CrAdams had the lone goal for the Canes.

Now I have to go back and watch the game from the beginning and also try to find out what happened to Brind'Amour.

Carolina will have Friday off, and will be happy just to get out of Alberta. On to BC, where they'll take on the 'Nucks on Saturday night. Hopefully, McGeough won't be anywhere in sight.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Canes get off on wrong foot. Stanley Cup rematch tonight.

On Tuesday night, the Canes fell to the Flames 3-0. Looking more like the abysmal Canes of 2002-03 than the reigning Cup champs, they gave up a goal in the first minute of the game and never rebounded.

I don't intend to discredit Calgary at all. They're a defensively sound team, and they played well. Carolina, though, didn't show up at all. Maybe a couple of 3 minute spurts in the third frame, but they just didn't have "it" last night. I don't recall any good scoring chances for the Canes. Mikka Kiprusoff got the shutout, and certainly deserves praise, but he faced a pathetic 23 shots. In the first period, Carolina was outshot 15-5, and they found themselves down 2-0. They had some difficulty adjusting to Calgary's "defense first" style of play, and by the time they got their legs going in the third period, it was too late. Carolina also had difficulty last year at the start of their Western swing, getting killed by the Coyotes 8-4 before beating all three California teams.

Eager to get this one behind them, they head to Edmonton for the first time since getting crushed 4-0 in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in June. BOA tells us that The Man with the Golden Mask will have the night off and our old pal Jussi Markkanen will get the start. They've also got some lingering hate for us, which I totally understand. When I say "us", I should qualify that. Andy Grabia says:
We like their bloggers, but hate their team.

Well, we like you guys too, and I wish I could say that I hate the Oilers (team) right back, but the truth of it is that I don't.

The Oil has suffered a few injuries. Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth are down and out, which means that since two of their top three are out, and the "role players" will have a lot more action. Obviously, we know that Petr Sykora will be big. It's the guys like Fernando Pisani and Patrice Bergeron that we need to look out for. Grabbia is calling for a hat trick from Pisani and a goal from Joffrey Lupul for a 4-2 win by the Oil. I certainly hope not.

I haven't been good with these ballsy predictions so far, but I'll go ahead and call for a Canes win in the shootout. In regulation, it'll be 4-4 behind two goals from Erik Cole, one from Scott Walker and one from Justin Williams. For the Oil, I'll guess that Sykora, Jason Smith, Raffi Torres and Jerret Stoll each have one. In the shootout, Ray Whitney will have the difference maker.

I'm working, but I should be home in time for the 9:30 puck drop. Due to some really kickass new technology, I don't even need to bother setting the DVR. I can simply come home, and if the game's in progress, I can start over from the beginning.

Check out the coverage from Covered in Oil, the aforementioned Battle of Alberta, and the other Oiler usuals. These two (while a little over the top with the hate) are the best of their lot, in my opinion. You know where to go to find more Canes coverage.

By the way, check out the props I got on NHL.com! I'm #9! It's no mistake that BoA and CiO are also in the top 10. They do great work.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

McFarlane postpones Staal figurine

McFarlane Toys was scheduled to release an Eric Staal figure as part of their NHL Series 14 set, which is due for release in March. Kind of. The initial plan was to use one mold for two figures. They would simply paint the figure in one way to represent Eric Staal and in another to depict Alex Kovalev. (story) The Staal figures would have shipped to stores in the United States, while the Kovalev figures would have shipped to Canadian stores. Thankfully, they've abandoned that idea.

Actually, the Kovalev figure has been scrapped, and the Staal figure has been postponed. And it's being placed in a "Canada only" series. Collectors in the United States (read: Canes fans) will have to order the Staal figure on-line or find one on the black market. You know. The dodgy underground world of out-of-market hockey toys.

McFarlane has also altered their marketing strategy. Instead of issuing two sets containing six figures per year, they'll issue smaller sets of four figures more frequently.

The Series 14 set will have Marian Hossa in the Thrashers third home sweater, Henrik Zetterberg in the Red Wings road sweater, Curtis Joseph in the Oilers home sweater and ALSO in the Coyotes road sweater, and finally Markus Naslund (just having scored a hat trick) in the 'Nucks home sweater.

The Series 15 will have Dion Phaneuf, Roberto "Yo, Luongo" Luongo, Staal, and Darcy Tucker. No details about poses or sweater colors on the Series 15 set.
For further details and photos of the Series 14 figures, go here.

Stillman activated, Canes begin tour of Northwest Division.

On monday night, the Hurricanes activated Cory Stillman from the injured reserve list. He had late off-season shoulder surgery, has been skating with the team for some time, and has been participating in full contact practices for about a week now.

As the Canes embark on a seven day, four city tour of the Northwest Division, the 32-year old left winger could return to action. Defenseman Frantisek Kaberle, who also had shoulder surgery, is still a few weeks away.

Throughout the Canes blogosphere, and from the differing news sources, there are some differing views as to when Stillman will be back in the lineup. Based on a CBC story, Casonblog thinks that Stillman will be back tonight against the Flames.
Canes Country has a dissenting view based on what's been written by the News & Observer's Luke Decock. Here he says that we shouldn't expect to see Stiller. Here he's a little more direct:
Cory Stillman practiced as well, but despite erroneous reports elsewhere won't play tonight. He's still targeting Friday at Vancouver, barring a setback.

That same acticle said that Frantisek Kaberle is practicing with the team, but is still a ways off with his ability to really use his shoulder (read: shoot, pass), and won't be cleared for contact for a few more weeks. So hitting is obviously out.

I actually think that we won't see Cory Stillman until we get back home against the Leafs on next Friday. The real question, though, is who will be scratched. It's pretty freakin obvious who gets scratched or waived when Kaberle returns, but it's not cut and dry with the return of Stillman. I don't buy any of the Kevyn Adams in Laviolette's doghouse talk, but his production has been somewhat disappointing. However, he's a team leader, unless they strip him of his "A", I don't see him getting benched. Chad LaRose works way too hard to get shafted. So it comes down to Trevor Letowski and Craig "Hands of Feet" Adams. It doesn't seem right to break up the Adams Family line, and there's no way anybody above the third line gets the boot, so the smart money is on Trevor Letowski as the odd man out. Don't be surprised, though, if there's some sort of healthy scratch rotation between CrAdams and Letowski.

Johhny Crackers will be in the nets against the Flames tonight, and it should be a dandy. Puck drop is 9:00 eastern.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Canes beat Bruins 5-2 -- game recap

On Saturday night, the Canes stopped the hot Bruins for the second time in eight days. Last Friday, the Canes won 5-1, and on Saturday, they won 5-2.

After the game, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas complained that the Canes skaters were trying to pad their stats.
"They're a point-hungry team," Thomas said. "I'm not talking about points for the win. The end of the game there, they were all doing a little bit of cheating to get their point totals up, so they can get a bigger contract next time."

So many things wrong with this. Not the least of which is that none of the Canes "big dogs" are in contract years. They're all locked up for at least two more seasons. And it wasn't 50-2. It was 5-2. There's no stat padding in a game that close. It wasn't actually close, but those "stat padding" allegations are way out of line. But if it helps him sleep better to say "pad stats" when the rest of the world says "outplay", then so be it.

Eric Staal scored an early marker at 2:43. Kevyn Adams stole the puck from defenseman Milan Jurcina behind the Bruins net. He passed to Anton Babchuk, who fired one of his heavy shots from the right point that was stopped by Thomas, but Staal had two chances to stuff it in from the left side of the net. The second time, Thomas had his back to the play and was about five feet out of the net. It was easy. Too easy. Babchuk and K-Ads got the assists.

Shean Donovan, who got absolutely crushed in a fight with Andrew Ladd, scored for the Bs at 14:15. After a Canes turnover in neutral ice, he rushed in the zone against THREE Canes skaters, and beat them all to put one past Cam Ward. Wayne Primeau and Mark Mowers got the assists.

Brad Stuart gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead just 62 seconds later. The Bruins rushed into the Carolina zone on a mini-break. Patrice Bergeron made a really nice centering pass to Marco Sturm in the goal mouth area. Ward was able to make the point-blank save, but the rebound kicked out to the left circle, and Stuart was able to lift it over Ward from there. Sturm and Bergeron got the helpers.

At 5:56 of the second, Erik Cole scored an absolutely jaw-dropping goal. Down in their own end, Cole laid down to block a Brad Stuart shot, got up, corralled the puck, outskated and fought off Stuart -- who was draped all over Cole-- and the diving Jason York. He did all this one-handed, then pulled the puck to his forehand to beat Thomas. There aren't many players in the league who could have made all that happen. Only someone with the same combination of speed, strength, and skill as Cole. The unassisted goal knotted it at two.

At 18:56 of the second, while Anton Babchuk was gone for delaying the game, the Canes got a shorthanded goal from Viva. Zdeno Chara was having a really difficult time running the point on power play. All night long, he was letting the puck out and/or making bad passes, which made the Bruins PP suffer. With Viva applying some mild pressure up high, Chara let another really bad pass go. Rod Brind'Amour intercepted the pass in the slot area, then hit Viva with a nice outlet pass for the shorthanded breakaway goal.

Eric Staal got his second goal at 6:10 of the third. Erik Cole fired a long dump-in from the Carolina side of the red line. Jason York lost the footrace to Scott Walker, so the icing was negated. From the goal line, Walker hit Staal with a perfect centering pass. Staal easily beat Thomas, who was camped out on the left post and had no chance on the play. It all happened so quickly, and it wasn't on Canes TV, but the replays that I've seen make it look like a set play to exploit York, who made no effort whatsoever on the play. Assists went to Walker and Cole.

At 11:24, Ray Whitney scored a really nifty goal. Viva carried the puck in, then dropped a pass to Brind'Amour above the slot. Jason York followed Viva into the right corner, leaving Ray Whitney all alone on the left side, nobody within 15 feet of him. Brindy hit Whitney at the left dot for a really easy one-timer. Assists to Brind'Amour and Viva

This is where the +/- stat is often misleading. Jason York finished the game -1. He was terrible, but if all you saw was the boxscore, you wouldn't think that. Meanwhile, Nic Wallin wasn't very good for the Canes, but he finished even in the +/-.

I'm still trying to figure out where the stat padding came in.

The "official" three stars went to Brind'Amour (third), Cole (second) and Staal (first). I couldn't quite do it that way.

The RBH Three Stars of the game:
Third Star Erik Cole, CAR. Goal, assist
Second Star Justin Williams, CAR. Assist, shorthanded GWG
First Star Eric Staal, CAR. 2 goals.

Up next is the annual West Coast road swing. This time, its the Nortwest Division starting on Tuesday in Calgary.

On December 15, the Leafs come to town. Chairman Mo and Bates Battaglia return to the RBC Center for the first time in a long time.


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