That’s how captain Olli Jokinen this morning described tonight’s game against the Hurricanes at BankAtlantic Center, and it’s no wonder. Not only do the Southeast-leading Hurricanes come into town with the third best record in the league, but they have NHL’s most potent offense, producing 47 goals in just 12 games.
“When you look at Carolina, they’re off to a great start this year,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin of the 7-2-3 Hurricanes. “Their power play is working well with them, and five on five they’ve got three lines contributing evenly.”
Rod Brind’Amour, who skates alongside Justin Williams and Chad LaRose, leads the Hurricanes in points (18) while Eric Staal, who will be paired with Cory Stillman and Jeff Hamilton, leads the team in goals (9). The Hurricanes are also ranked fourth in the league on the power play. Hamilton and Stillman each have three power play goals.
“They’re a fast team with three good lines,” said Panther defenseman Cory Murphy. “We just have to play smart in our own end.”
The Panthers were 1-7 against the Hurricanes last season, but Jokinen says it’s a different season. “To me, there’s no reason to look back,” said the Panthers leading scorer. “This is a different team. They’re nine points ahead of us right now, they’re one of the hottest teams, but we feel confident. With a good day you can beat any team. Hopefully, this is a turning point.”
Martin said the next month will be an important stretch for the Panthers.
“We’re three points out of a playoff spot with a strength of games, 10 of the next 11, against our own division,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to make up some ground.”
Jokinen is expected to play tonight with Ville Peltonen and Nathan Horton. Stephen Weiss will work with Richard Zednik and Jozef Stumpel…Martin confirmed Wednesday morning that defenseman Noah Welch would likely undergo surgery on his separated shoulder. Martin said Welch would meet with doctors later in the day to determine when the surgery will take place…