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Race to the Finish ... Monday: Carolina Hurricanes @ Florida Panthers

Nascar OK, it's been a few hours since the Panthers latest third period collapse, so let's put things in perspective.

The Panthers have 10 games left. That's 20 points out there for the taking. Florida is one point out of the playoffs, and Montreal actually looks a lot worse right now than the Panthers do.

If Florida can wake themselves up and find a way to win tomorrow against Carolina, everything may just be all right. Lose tomorrow, and Florida may be in some serious trouble.

Florida is now four points out of seventh, five behind Carolina for sixth. Right now, you have to think the thought is 'just get in.' Florida can't worry about what teams up around sixth or fifth are doing. They just need to find a way to get into the playoffs and figure it out from there.

They can do this.

The race to the finish starts Monday.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

-- Here are some Carolina game notes thanks to the crack PR crew from Raleigh. Enjoy:

Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers

Monday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

BankAtlantic Center * Sunrise, FL

Hurricanes: 39-28-7 (85 pts.); 2nd Southeast Division; 6th Eastern Conference

Panthers: 35-27-10 (80 pts.); 3rd Southeast Division; 9th Eastern Conference

* All statistics and standings information through NHL games of March 21, 2009

TOMORROW’S GAME

The Carolina Hurricanes take to the road on Monday for a pivotal game in the Eastern Conference playoff race against Southeast Division rivals the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., Hurricanes Radio Network). The Hurricanes are coming off of a three-game home stand that saw the team score a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, a 5-4 come-from-behind win against the New York Islanders on Friday and a 4-1 win against Washington on Saturday to extend their season-best eight-game home winning streak.

Carolina enters Sunday’s game with 85 points and in the midst of a tight race with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the NY Rangers, Montreal, Florida and Buffalo for the final four Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Hurricanes are 22-13-1 at home and 17-15-6 on the road this season.

Broadcast Notes: Due to the NHL’s agreement with national cable television rightsholder Versus, the Hurricanes-at-Panthers game on Monday cannot be televised by either club’s television rightsholder. Fans watching the network’s coverage of New Jersey-at-Philadelphia will be kept up-to-date on the Hurricanes-at-Panthers game by Versus’ Hockey Central crew.

Hurricanes Radio Network flagship 99.9 FM The Fan, hosts a 30-minute pre-game show and a one-hour call-in post-game show surrounding Hurricanes radio broadcasts, hosted by The Fan’s Hurricanes insider Mike Maniscalco. Hall of Fame play-by-play man Chuck Kaiton will call all of the in-game action for all games on the Hurricanes Radio Network.

MILESTONE WATCH

Matt Cullen                Will play his 800th NHL game with his next game played

Tim Gleason             Will play his 200th Hurricanes game with his next game played

Sergei Samsonov   Is one point shy of 500 NHL points

Ray Whitney             Is one assist shy of 500 NHL assists

Jussi Jokinen          Is two games shy of 300 NHL games played

Eric Staal                   Played his 400th NHL/Hurricanes game, March 20 vs. NY Islanders

Ray Whitney             Earned his 800th NHL point with his third of three assists, March 20 vs. NY Islanders

CURRENT STREAKS

Cam Ward                 Has started each of the Hurricanes’ last 21 games (2/7-3/21: 13-6-2, 2.46 GAA, .917SV%, 2 SO)

Erik Cole                    Has assists and points in each of the last three games (3/14-3/20: 1g, 3a)

Tuomo Ruutu            Has points in each of the last two games (3/18-3/20: 1g, 2a)

Rod Brind’Amour     Has assists and points in each of the last two games (3/18-3/20: 0g, 3a)

Television: none

Radio: Hurricanes Radio Network – WCMC 99.9 FM The Fan (Raleigh – flagship), Pirate Radio – WGHB 1250 AM and WDLX 930 AM (Greenville, NC), WWNB ESPN 1490 AM (New Bern, NC)

Internet: www.nhl.com, www.CarolinaHurricanes.com

CAROLINA NOTES

·       Carolina has 85 points thus far this season. The Hurricanes are in a tightly-contested race with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, Montreal, Florida and Buffalo for the final four Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Hurricanes have four games remaining against the above listed teams.

·       Goaltender Cam Ward has started each of the Hurricanes’ last 21 games, posting a 13-6-2 record, 2.46 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage and two shutouts in that span. This current streak is now the longest consecutive-starts streak of his career. His previous longest consecutive-starts streak came when he started 20 consecutive games to conclude the 2007-08 season, from Feb. 19 through April 4.

·       Carolina defenseman Anton Babchuk has 12 points (8g, 4a) in the Hurricanes’ last 16 games. He ranks second among team defensemen with 12 goals, and fourth among Carolina blueliners with 24 points. Six of his 12 goals this season have come on the power play.

·       Hurricanes center Eric Staal was named first star of the week for the period ending March 8. In that week, Staal had nine points (5g, 4a) and helped the Hurricanes to a 3-0-0 record in games at Washington, against Calgary and at Tampa Bay in. Staal now has 26 points (11g, 15a) in the last 18 games. The Hurricanes are 19-2-2 this season in games when Staal scores a goal, and 26-7-4 in games when he earns a point.

·          Recently reacquired winger Erik Cole now has 10 points (2g, 8a) in his nine games back with the Carolina. Since Staal entered the NHL in 2003-04, he has assisted on 27 goals by Cole, while Cole has assisted on 34 goals by Staal. For each player, it is the highest number of assists on goals by any one teammate.

·          Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney earned his third career hat trick on March 6 against Calgary, reaching the 300-goals plateau for his NHL career with the third goal. His second goal of the game marked his 20th of the season, marking the eighth season in his career, and third consecutive season, he has reached 20 goals. Whitney leads the Hurricanes with 44 assists and 67 points, ranks second in goals (23) and is one of just three Carolina skaters to play in all 74 of the team’s games this season. He earned his 800th NHL point with his third of three assists against the Islanders on March 20.

CAROLINA AT HOME: 22-13-1

CAROLINA ON THE ROAD: 17-15-6

CAROLINA ON THE POWER PLAY: 59-of-340 (17.4%)

CAROLINA SHORTHANDED: 218-of-275 (79.3%)

INJURY REPORT

Forward Scott Walker, upper body, day-to-day, missed eight games

AGAINST THE PANTHERS

Monday marks the sixth and final 2008-09 regular-season meeting between the Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers, and the 81st all-time meeting between the clubs since Florida entered the NHL in 1993. Carolina won the teams’ first game of the season on Oct. 10 at the RBC Center by a 6-4 score. The Panthers returned the favor with a 3-2 win at BankAtlantic Center on Nov. 24, before Carolina earned a 2-1 overtime win at the RBC Center on Dec. 18. Florida scored a 4-2 home win against the Hurricanes on Jan. 8, and issued Carolina a 5-0 home loss on Feb. 12. The Panthers have already won the season series between the clubs, posting a 3-1-1 (7 points) record in the teams’ first five games, compared to Carolina’s 2-3-0 (4 points).

Last season, Ray Whitney led all Carolina skaters with nine points (3g, 6a) in the eight-game season series against Florida, while Nathan Horton (5g, 4a) and Olli Jokinen (2g, 7a) paced the Panthers. The Hurricanes post a 40-27-12-1 all-time record against Florida, with a 26-11-3 home record and a 14-16-9-1 road record.

 

Saturday's Games (and how they affected the Panthers): Well, Florida sure didn't help its own cause, that's for sure. The Panthers would have moved into eighth if they could have held off Columbus, but three goals in the final two-plus minutes is a killer.

Montreal still looks terrible but remains in eighth. Buffalo is also bad. The Panthers have to be thanking the hockey gods that they are not six points out of the playoff race right now. Florida has lost five of six but are still within striking distance. The Panthers have to hope the worst is behind them. A new season starts Monday.

Sunday's Games (and who the Panthers would be rooting for if they weren't so busy trying to figure out what happened on Saturday night)

Flyers 3, Penguins 1: Well, the Penguins are still six points up. Doesn't really matter right now.

Sens @ Rangers, 7: Panthers would like to see the Rangers stumble in this one since the Sens don't have a dog in this fight and are looking for that Florida lottery.

The Standings (presented by the Hartford Insurance, the Hartford Civic Center and Brass Bonanza; courtesy, as always, from TSN.ca/nhl. Does not include today's Pitt-Philly game)

Eastern

RankTeamGPWLOTPTSGFGAHomeAwayLast 10Streak
1Boston7245171010023917024-6-621-11-43-5-2Lost 2
2New Jersey71472139722217326-10-121-11-28-2-0Won 1
3Washington74452369623821626-9-219-14-45-4-1Lost 1
4Philadelphia703822108622620321-10-417-12-65-5-0Won 1
5Pittsburgh73392688623221921-12-318-14-58-0-2Won 3
6Carolina74392878521321022-13-117-15-67-1-2Won 3
7NY Rangers72382688418619622-10-416-16-47-3-0Won 3
8Montreal72362798121422021-8-615-19-33-5-2Lost 5
 
9Florida723527108019820319-11-616-16-44-4-2Lost 1
10Buffalo72343087621220820-13-314-17-53-6-1Lost 4
11Toronto733030137321925713-13-917-17-45-4-1Won 1
12Ottawa713130107219120620-12-611-18-48-2-0Won 4
13Atlanta73303766622324914-19-216-18-47-3-0Won 1
14Tampa Bay722333166218924011-15-1112-18-53-3-4Lost 3
15NY Islanders72244085618223416-14-58-26-35-4-1Lost 2
 

Western

RankTeamGPWLOTPTSGFGAHomeAwayLast 10Streak
1x-Detroit724815910527021226-5-422-10-57-2-1Won 4
2y-San Jose7147141010423017529-3-418-11-65-4-1Won 2
3Calgary71412468823321823-9-418-15-24-6-0Lost 1
4Chicago703722118522919018-8-719-14-43-5-2Lost 5
5Vancouver71382498521419622-11-416-13-57-2-1Lost 1
6Columbus72382868220120023-11-215-17-47-3-0Won 2
7Edmonton71352797920721616-12-619-15-35-1-4Won 3
8Nashville72353077718419921-12-314-18-45-2-3Lost 2
 
9St. Louis72333097519921219-13-514-17-45-4-1Won 1
10Anaheim71343167419720617-16-317-15-35-4-1Won 2
11Minnesota71333087418017819-11-614-19-23-4-3Lost 1
12Dallas72333187420422219-13-414-18-44-5-1Lost 3
13Los Angeles713031107018620916-14-814-17-24-5-1Lost 1
14Phoenix72303576717921919-14-311-21-43-5-2Won 1
15Colorado72313926418822918-17-013-22-23-6-1Lost 3



 

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