The Carolina Hurricanes are nine points and four teams out of the Eastern Conference's final wild card spot, so pardon me for lumping them in with the New York Islanders in the "not gonna happen" group of lottery-bound 82-games-and-out teams.
These two teams meet tonight in Raleigh, each with different levels of experimentation going on. The Islanders are experimenting with rookie replacements -- though not so much by choice as by an injury slate that includes John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait. (Just to put a "welcome to the Islanders" bow on things, apparently Thomas Vanek trade booty Sebastian Collberg is also injured in Sweden.)
The Carolina Hurricanes are experimenting with Staal-chemy, as Eric Staal is being tried on the wing.
The lines at Tuesday's morning skate had Jordan Staal centering Nathan Gerbe and Alex Semin; Andrei Loktionov centering Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty; Riley Nash at center with Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm, and Manny Malhotra centering Drayson Bowman and Pat Dwyer. Eric Staal said after the skate that he would take most of the faceoffs on his line and that he and Loktionov would alternate at center during the game.
There was also the murmuring in 30 Thoughts that denied Eric would be traded this summer in a "surely it won't come to that" kind of way, while Jeff Skinner was named a more likely asset sale, and Cam Ward seems like the big-dollar guy they'd really prefer to catapult on to someone else's payroll. This after Justin Faulk signed a six-year, $29 million extension (while fellow young blueliner Ryan Murphy was returned to Rick DiPietro's last AHL team).
Combine all that with the news that Jim Rutherford is expected to leave the GM post this summer, and you have the potential for lots of changes this summer.
Guess the Player
Here we are at Game 72 in a tough season, where the coach-to-media lexicon gets exhausted from overuse. Here is Jack Capuano when asked by the official site about Calvin de Haan and Eric Boulton. See if you can tell who is who from these Capuano quotes (clipped for comedic effect):
A. The thing I really like about [Player A] is that he comes to the rink every day and wants to get better.
B. I love [Player B]'s grit, determination and the fact that he comes to the rink and wants to get better every day.
I'll give you a moment...
If you answered "Boulton" for A and "de Haan" for B, then you either:
- Already saw the official site story
- Are some sort of hockey cliche ninja or coach whisperer, or
- Know in your heart of hearts that, at the end of the day, hockey is for everyone and we're all the same
Calvin de Haan is a really promising, smooth-skating rookie defenseman. Eric Boulton is a really genuine version of Eric Boulton.
Ward is in net for the Canes, Anders Nilsson for the Isles. How many more chances will Nilsson, an RFA this summer, get to improve his .882(!) save percentage and make a case for a qualifying offer?