The Time: 7:00pm EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG, FSCR
A victory over Toronto on Tuesday puts Carolina’s Bunch of Jerks in the perfect spot to surge into the playoffs with a match-up against one of the most struggling teams in the NHL, our own New Jersey Devils. The Devils, with no playoffs awaiting them next week, will skate into this game with spite on one shoulder and a whole lot to prove ahead of next season on the other.
Pride and Playoffs
The Playoff Team: The Hurricanes will have a lot of momentum on their side coming into tonight’s game. They’re on home ice, a place that’s rapidly gone from the lowest-attendance rink in the NHL to a hot ticket in town thanks to both a sudden turnaround of their season around mid-December and the fan-favorite Storm Surge celebrations that take place after home game wins. They’re coming back home after beating the Maple Leafs, a team that is already in the playoffs, 4-1 with a goal each from veterans Jordan Staal and Justin Williams, a 2-goal night from defenseman Dougie Hamilton, and a .958 SV% performance from goaltender Petr Mrázek. Most importantly, they’ll be looking to clinch a playoff spot for just the sixth time in their history. The Hurricanes have not been to the playoffs since the 2008-09 season.
The Pride Team: The Devils will enter this match-up already eliminated from playoff contention, so this will be one of their final two games of the season. After starting March with a seven game losing streak, the Devils have reigned in their injury woes a bit and righted their lineup enough to leave a better taste in everyone’s mouth as we move into the off-season. The final home game at the Rock on Monday resulted in a win against the New York Rangers, narrowly avoiding the rivalry sweep and giving Devils fans something to smile about. The wins have been a bit more plentiful in this final stretch, though New Jersey is still guaranteed to finish within the bottom four, which should give tankers something to smile about as well. The Devils are looking to finish off the last two games of this season with wins, play spoiler to a few teams where they can, and build at least a small step to stand on for next season. The rookies who remain on the team will also be playing for spots next year, so we can expect a hard fought battle to take place on Carolina soil.
Choose Your Fighters: The Hurricanes will be putting out their best lineup, which lately has looked like this:
Niederreiter - Aho - Williams
Teravainen - Staal - Svechnikov
Ferland - Wallmark - Martinook
McGinn - McKegg - Foegele
Slavin - Hamilton
Pesce - Fault
Fleury - Van Riemsdyke
Center Jordan Staal returned to the Carolina lineup since we last played them in February. Since his return from a concussion early in the season Staal has put up 5 goals and 10 points in 19 games. Prior to being injured Staal had just 11 points in 30 games played. Rookie winger Andrei Svechnikov led all Hurricanes with 6 goals last month, tying him with Teravainen for third on the team in goals with 20, though Terevainen is miles ahead of the rookie’s 37 points with 73 of his own. 37-year-old Justin Williams is second in goals with 23 (and 53 points) while Sebastian Aho leads the team in both with 30 goals and 82 points. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is one of 14 team members with 20 or more points with 37. Justin Faulk and Jaacob Slavin are both also over the 30 point mark. Carolina leads the league in shots per game thanks to the offensive contribution extending back to their blueline, but doesn’t sacrifice much defensively for it. They’re also third in the league in shots against per game with a stingy 28.5 on average. In net, they’ve been average-to-good, their 9th place goals-against numbers bolstered a bit by the low shot counts. Both McElhinney and Mrázek have put up .912SV%s so far this season. Calvin de Haan is injured for the Hurricanes off the third defensive pairing, so rookie Hayden Fleury has been called up to play in his place. Fleury has 1 assist in 18 games this season.
The Devils know a thing or two about injuries... With just two games left in the season, four players have now made the Probably Done For The Season list. Jesper Bratt did skate again on Tuesday for the first time since his injury on March 5th but has been confirmed shut down for the season. Taylor Hall, though it has been made clear that ‘he would like to play’ and so they won’t confirm he’s officially down for the count, still has not made a practice and did not travel with the team so he will not return this season. Kyle Palmieri and Sami Vatanen have made the trip but both are ruled out today against Carolina and are considered unlikely to play Saturday. On the other side, a familiar face has returned for this last road trip: Brett Seney was recalled from Binghamton and took the trip to Carolina.
The Devils lineup was a bit haphazard at practice Tuesday with a few missing faces (Bastian, Gabriel, and Yakovlev were also missing from practice) and the additions of Seney and the newly-signed Jeremy Davies, who will begin playing officially next season but took line rushes alongside Mueller this week. Based on their practice lines we can expect to see:
Agostino - Hischier - Coleman
Wood - Zajac - Anderson
Stafford - Zacha - McLeod (or Seney, who also took line rushes with Stafford and Zacha)
Noesen - Rooney - Bastian
Greene - Severson
Mueller - Carrick
Butcher - Santini
Cory Schneider has been confirmed to be the starter against Carolina. Schneider last played the Hurricanes on November 18th, which was a 2-1 loss in typical early-2018-19-season fashion: 2 quick goals in the first 30 seconds and then a 59:30 shutout for the loss. Mackenzie Blackwood recorded his first shutout against the Hurricanes in December, but he will sit in anticipation of his start on Saturday against the Panthers.
Your Take: Are you rooting for Team Tank or Team Spoiler? How do you feel about Seney’s latest call-up? Anything else you’re hoping to see happen before the season ends for the Devils on Saturday? Leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments, and thanks for reading!