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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hurricanes drop third in a row (again)

Posted by on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 10:15 PM

Fourth liners scoring, captains fighting, All-Stars killing penalties and nothing else…what is going on with the Carolina Hurricanes these days?

The Hurricanes, threatening to go on their second three-game skid in three weeks, gave up a goal early in the third period  to the Philadelphia Flyers and couldn’t get it back. A quarter of the way through the season, it seems as though the ‘Canes can only win every other week. If this trend continues, look for some drastic changes in the near future, in the form of a coaching change or a major trade.

The Hurricanes brass recently decided to do away with morning skates on game days, theorizing that the team might have a bit more jump with a little more rest. Instead of looking fresher, the team just looks stale. The Hurricanes haven’t scored the first goal in eight games and managed only one shot on goal in the first period tonight.

“We had one shot in our home building, and that’s embarrassing,” Tuomo Ruutu said. “It seems like after every first period we’re down one or two goals, and it’s tough to come back in this league.”

The Hurricanes looked to be getting off to a good, or at least physical, start with a fight two minutes in that pitted Wade Brookbank against Josh Gratton. However, the streaking Simon Gagne picked up a rebound and shoved it in just after a high-sticking power play to Joni Pitkanen expired, giving the Flyers forward points in his last nine games. The ‘Canes couldn’t generate anything through two power plays and were booed off the ice following the first period – the first time in recent memory that has happened.

“Tonight we played the first period like a game of pond hockey,” Laviolette said after the game. “They got chances, we got nothing.”

Scott Walker was the only ‘Cane who looked like he was awake in the first period, but he left during the second with what the team termed a “lower body injury” and did not return. Laviolette declined to elaborate on Walker’s condition.

Chad LaRose must not like what he’s been reading in Triangle Offense, because the fourth-line center tied the game up with a highlight-reel goal off his own rebound two minutes into the second period, his third goal in as many games. LaRose followed it up with the most ungraceful goal celebration to grace the RBC Center ice this year, in which he fell on his rear end and almost took a few guys with him.

Joe Corvo received the well-deserved secondary assist on the LaRose goal after being crushed behind the play in the ‘Canes’ end with no penalty called. Corvo rushed back into the Flyers’ end, throwing hits as he went, and set up LaRose later during the same shift.

The period ended 1-1, but it could have been much worse for the Flyers. Although they were scoreless on two power plays, the ‘Canes came knocking on Philly’s doorstep more than once. After the period ended, a conversation between Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour and Philadelphia captain Mike Richards ended in fisticuffs, and they were given matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Scottie Upshall and Eric Staal joined the captains in the penalty box, giving the teams a rare 3-on-3 power play. The Hurricanes had the puck swatted away on a 2-on-1 and couldn’t get back, giving the Flyers a 3-on-1 and an easy goal. Matt Carle gave the Flyers a one-goal lead that was never erased. Gagne scored again on an empty net with less than a second left in the game.

Fans hoped that Staal’s much-publicized hat trick against Phoenix last week was the sign of better things to come, but the center is scoreless in three games since. Staal was apparently injured on his first shift, and Laviolette said he played “through a lot of pain tonight.”

Strangely enough, the Hurricanes activated Frantisek Kaberle off of the injured reserve list – he broke his leg over a month ago – but didn’t put him in the line-up against Philadelphia. However, they certainly have the roster room for him, with Tim Gleason and Patrick Eaves out for who knows how long.

The Hurricanes have not seen the last of the Flyers this week. They will travel to Philadelphia in a Friday re-match, and finish up the four-game season series within the next two weeks. The team will undoubtedly face Philly’s No. 1 goaltender, Martin Biron, on Friday, which could make payback a bit difficult.

LaRose indicated that video coordinator Chris Huffine may be getting a break, even with several games against the same team on the horizon.

“I think you can throw film out the window,” LaRose said. “It’s execution and energy and heart and downright gritty work.”

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