Dallas Stars: Erik Cole
Bob, from Canes Country, answered some questions about the Hurricanes for us. Here goes:
Q: Can you give us a scouting report on the Hurricanes and how they've been since the Stars last played them in late November?
A: The Canes have not fared very well lately. They have a record of 2-7-1 since their loss to the Stars and while their play has been good in spots, it has not been good enough to turn their ugly season around.
Q: If you had to pick one reason for Carolina's struggles, what would it be and why?
A: That is impossible to do, because it's been a combination of things. We can start off with a lack of scoring, inability to stop the other team from scoring, poor discipline regarding penalties, and an ineffective powerplay. When you rank last or near last in most major categories, it's an epic fail, not just one thing.
Q: How has goalie Cam Ward looked since returning from a leg laceration? Will he play tonight?
A: Yes, Ward will start tonight. He has had good moments, and looked especially good in an overtime loss to Washington last week. But he has not earned a win yet, and is 0-2-1 since returning from his injury.
Q: Give us the Jussi Jokinen update. Stars fans love to hear how he's doing. Dallas could sure use him on the shootout.
A: Jussi is a fan favorite here. He is third on the team in scoring with 18 points and has been very flexible in his ability to move around on different lines as the team has needed, due to a variety of injuries to other players. He continues to be effective on the shootout. By the way, he also leads the team with two game winning goals as well. Jussi has been the definition of clutch since coming to Carolina.
Q: Which player has been the biggest surprise this season?
A: Eric Staal has been a surprise in a negative way. He has been fighting injuries but has not been the prolific scorer he has been in the past. Brandon Sutter has been a bit of a surprise in a positive way. He has shown much more offensive skill than what many have anticipated.
Q: Talk about the Hurricanes' special teams.
A: The powerplay is ranked 28th in the league at 14.3%. It has struggled mightily. The penalty kill has been pretty decent and is ranked at 18th in the league at 79.4%.
Q: Which players should Stars fans keep an eye on tonight?
Q: Injury update?
A: There are plenty. Joe Corvo is out long term. Nic Wallin has been out and Tim Gleason is also out for tonight. He took a puck to the face last week and has tried to play through it, but will take tonight off. Three defensemen from Albany will fill in.
Q: Anything else Stars fans should know about the Hurricanes?
A: While the Hurricanes have struggled on the road, (1-12-4), they have played decently at home, (6-7-2). It should be a good game tonight.
Q: Give us a scouting report on the Hurricanes. It appears they played one of their better games on Saturday.
A: Saturday night's 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning was one of the best games of the season so far for the Hurricanes. The team was mired in an early season slump, (14 consecutive games without a win), at one time had the worst record in the league, and ranks near the bottom of the league in most major categories. (Goals allowed, goals scored, powerplay percentage, etc.). They have yet to win a single road game all season long. (0-7-3).
Q: How has former Star Jussi Jokinen played this season?
A: Jokinen has been one of the few positives of the season. He is third on the team in points, (14), tied for first with goals scored, (6), and remains the most dangerous player in the league during a shootout. Recently, he notched his 26th career shootout goal, which is tops for all active NHL players. He is currently playing wing on Carolina's second line along with countryman Tuomo Ruutu and Minnesota native Matt Cullen, but the team would love to eventually move him to center.
The player has fit in nicely with the team and has helped fellow Finn, Joni Pitkanen feel more comfortable in Carolina, thus helping the star defenseman's game as well. Jokinen seems to be a player who thrives under pressure as he was one of the team's top scorers in last year's playoffs.
Q: Talk about the top line and how they have performed.
A: Currently, the top line is Brandon Sutter, Ray Whitney, and Erik Cole. Sutter is a recall from the AHL who has been filling in for Eric Staal and he has done a marvelous job. He has nine points in 13 games and has performed better than expected. Ray Whitney is a consistent point producer and has had a good year so far. (6G 9A 15P). Erik Cole broke a bone in his leg early in the year and missed several games. He is just starting to get back to prime condition.
Q: It looks like the power play has struggled (26th in the league). Why?
A: The team will tell you that it's because of lack of bodies in front of the net, but my opinion is that they have had lack of firepower and skill at the point. Joni Pitkanen has missed several games due to a variety of ailments, and he is an important cog for puck movement. Joe Corvo has had a rough start, (until recently) and the team needs his strong shot from the point to make it through to the net. Other than those two players, the Canes really do not have anyone steady who is consistent from the point, and they need more help.
Q: Which goalie will the Stars see on Monday? Tell us about him.
A: Manny Legace will start, which is an interesting story by itself. Cam Ward was cut in the leg by Rick Nash earlier this year and is out at least until December 5. Backup goalie Michael Leighton has a groin pull. The team signed Legace as insurance when Ward went down and he has been a fairly adequate replacement. He seems to be getting stronger each game and made 20 saves on 21 shots on Saturday night.
Q: Who are some other players Stars fans should keep an eye on?
A: Tuomo Ruutu has been red hot lately and has 9 points in his last 6 games. Defenseman, Joni Pitkanen is a joy to watch when he is on his game.
Q: Injury update?
A: All Star Eric Staal is out. Franchise goalie Cam Ward is out. Scott Walker is also nursing an injury and will miss the game.
Q: Anything else Stars fans should know about Carolina?