NHL: What Friday Night's Game Means to the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers

Robert McGeeSenior Writer IMarch 20, 2008

The Carolina Hurricanes are in Sunrise, Florida tonight to play the Panthers in a game of significance for each club.

Florida is seven points behind Carolina in the Southeast Division race, but just two points behind Washington and four points behind eigth place Philadelphia. Technically, they are still alive in the race for the playoffs, but they need a lot of help to get there.

The Florida franchise is billing tonight’s contest as the “Game of the Year”, and it very well could be. A loss to the Canes would just about put a stake in the heart of any post-season hopes. Needless to say, they will be playing with extreme urgency.

The Hurricanes, on the otherhand, gave themselves a bit of breathing room by beating Atlanta last night, while watching close rival Washington lose to Chicago afterwards. While this win would be nice to have, it’s not as crucial for the Canes.

There have been a few newspaper quotes this morning from Florida coach and GM Jacques Martin about his team’s historic trouble with the team from Carolina. While not exactly using the specific term “diving”, he did mention that the Panthers have to watch their stickwork because the Canes are good at “drawing” penalties.

I have a tip for Martin and the Panthers: Just play by the rules, and you should be okay. Hooking, tripping, holding, and interference are all against the rules. Skate hard, play your game, and don’t worry so much about Carolina’s ability to “draw” penalties.

In my opinion, this is one reason why the Panthers will never amount to anything under Martin. He is more worried about what the Canes are doing than preparing his team to play their own game. Knucklehead.

Carolina is expected to skate the exact same lineup as last night. There is a possiblility that Dennis Seidenberg could return, or that Wade Brookbank might be ready, but if either of them play it will be a game-time decision. Cam Ward will make his 14th straight start.

The Hurricanes have won eight of their last ten while the Panthers have won seven in a row. They will be hoping to break a franchise record with eight tonight. Two red-hot teams with playoff aspirations face off tonight, and it should be a good one. Game time is at 7:30 and it will be broadcast locally on FSN. This is another HD game.