Canes’ plan: keep on slugging

Posted by Chip Alexander on March 25, 2014 

Having won two of three on the road, the Canes would like to give the home fans something to cheer Tuesday night.

Cam Ward will be in net as the Canes look to beat the New York Islanders at PNC Arena, where the Canes are just 17-14-5 this season. In their last home game, on March 16, they were beaten 2-1 by the Edmonton Oilers.

But the Isles are coming off a 2-0 win over Columbus as goaltender Evgeni Nabokov turned in a 41-save shutout. New York is 12-4-1 in its last 17 road games, with recent road wins at Winnipeg and Vancouver.

“They’re playing good hockey,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said Tuesday. “They’re playing fast and hard.”

The Canes (31-31-9) go into the game nine points out of a wild-card playoff position with 11 games to play. The math isn't in their favor, but Muller said the goal simply is to string victories together and hope for the best.

"There's a lot of fight in our guys," Muller said. "Our five-on-five game we're happy with right now, our special teams are doing well, our goaltending has given us a chance to win. With that mix, we're giving ourselves a chance to win every night. We've just got to look at ourselves and prepare and play good hockey. It's doesn't matter what opponent we're playing against.

"We'll just approach it as, hey, there's still an avenue to make it. As long as there is let's keep slugging it out and let it take its course."

Ward stopped 34 of 36 shots against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday in Carolina's 3-2 road win. There were a host of high-quality stops among the 34 saves, including a lunging stick save against the Jets' Bryan Little that topped SportsCenter's top 10 plays on ESPN.

Muller called it Ward's "best game of the year" and no one would argue that point. Ward also has a career 17-3-3 record against the Isles.

The Canes have won the last six games against the Islanders, with three one-goal victories this season.

“They have a young group but they’re capable of scoring,” Muller said of the Isles. “We’ve played a good structured game against them ... and scored key goals at the right time.”

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.

The defensive pairs were Justin Faulk with Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey with John-Michael Liles, and Jay Harrison with Brett Bellemore.

Hainsey took a spill during the skate and was taken to the locker room in some discomfort. Muller said later that Hainsey was good to go.

"It was a little scary, to see a little freaky thing like that," Muller said.

Nash will be playing his 100th NHL game with the Canes.

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