RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes are hungry for a win after losing the final two games of their recent road trip that ended with a 4-2 loss in Colorado last Friday.
As the team stepped onto the ice for practice at PNC Arena on Sunday, they were still missing more than a few bodies while preparing to host an equally hungry Pittsburgh Penguins team that will be coming into town on Monday.
The Hurricanes (4-4-3) currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan division, trailing the first-place Penguins (7-4) by only three points, so a win will be an important one for either team to play for in order to get back onto a winning track.
“We’re looking at it like we lost two, and they’re gonna’ be hungry and not very happy,” Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said.
“We’re not (happy). I look at it as tomorrow’s gonna’ be a heck of a hockey game because you’ve got two teams that shouldn’t be very happy.”
After the Penguins won the two teams’ first meeting of the season, 5-2, in Pittsburgh back on Oct. 8, the Hurricanes will look to establish a stronger defensive presence but with a different lineup against Pittsburgh’s potent offense led by the NHL’s current scoring leader, Sidney Crosby.
“Who do you want to start with,” Muller said with a slight chuckle when asked the status of various players who have incurred injuries recently.
With goaltender Cam Ward and defenseman Brett Bellemore still listed on injured reserve, Muller commented on the status of backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, who tried to skate briefly before practice, forward Jeff Skinner who underwent an MRI on Sunday, and forward Radek Dvorak who didn’t practice.
“He tried it this morning before practice,” Muller said of Khudobin’s attempt to skate.
“He didn’t feel that great, so he’s got a little work to do. It’s nice to see that he went out and tried it. He did go out, but for a very short time. He’s got some work ahead of him I guess. I don’t know the time frame for him.”
In addition to Khudobin, Bellemore also tried to skate before practice but Muller indicated that he was still feeling sore while recovering from his lower-body injury, and would not be coming back any time soon.
While Muller was awaiting the results of Skinner’s MRI, Dvorak’s status was also one of a wait-and-see status for Monday’s game against Pittsburgh.
“He’s a question mark for tomorrow,” Muller said.
“He did not skate today. So, he’s lower-body as well. He’ll come in tomorrow and reassess, but he would be a question mark for tomorrow.”
With the injuries that his roster is currently experiencing, Muller is still focusing his team on the task at hand and tweaking line combinations as needed.
“We’re gonna’ play a team that has two pretty strong forward lines there, so just checking to see the balance of our group to go against their two lines.”
Even with the adversity that his team is facing with injuries, Muller expects Monday’s game to be a very competitive one that he fully expects his healthy players to be ready for.
“I think tomorrow night will be an interesting game,” Muller said.
“A lot of emotion and intensity – it should be a good one.”