Game Time: 6:00 Central
TV/Radio: WGN All Around
Barbecue Pork Sandwiches: Canes Country
If this isn't the very definition of a trap game, then I don't know what is, and it really shouldn't take Admiral Ackbar announcing it for that to be clear. Tonight is the last game of a marathon 8-game, 16 day road trip for the Hawks, and they've just flown completely across the country from San Jose. On top of that, they're coming off an electric victory over the league's best team to now facing the worst team in the eastern conference. The writing is clearly on the wall.
While the Hurricanes are currently sitting the east's cellar, they've experienced a bit of a surge recently after the smooth transference of the captaincy from the corpse of Rod Brind'Amour to Eric Staal. The "C" was stitched onto Staal's sweater on the 21st of this month, and the Hurricanes have gone 4-1. Staal is naturally the Canes' leading goal-getter and scorer with 18 goals and 42 points, and has been in a leadership capacity, both officially and unofficially, prior to being named captain, so the change seemed a natural one to make, even if it was oddly timed, but it's proved to have sparked the team. Elsewhere on the roster, trade bait Ray Whitney (who is Kris Versteeg + 15 years), is right behind Staal with 41 points, and other trade bait Matt Cullen leads the team in +/- with a +2, so that should tell you just how difficult things have been for the Canes. Make no mistake though, they're likely to be geared up for this game as most teams are these days when the Hawks play in their building, and the Hawks have not won in Carolina since 1998. That's a streak the Canes would obviously like to keep going.
As for the Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure, they can hardly be blamed for having one eye on the already running limo in the parking lot of the RBC Center, having just gone coast-to-coast after a big victory against league-leading San Jose, with the long-awaited flight home now finally coming. However, the Hawks won't be able to just "show up" tonight and be gifted two points.They'll be playing a team fighting for its pride, and riding a recent wave of winning. The recent trend has been for Coach Q to match strength against strength on this trip, so look for Canadian Olympic teammates Staal and Jonathan Toews to see quite a bit of one another. A strong, smart, efficient effort should turn this trip from a good one into an exceptional one, and will make the flight and limo rides home all that much more pleasant.