A month ago, these two teams met in Calgary. Tonight, they meet in Raleigh with the world looking much different than it did then.
Sebastian Aho was in the midst of a torrid streak of six multi-point games in a row, and his overtime game-winner was a crowning achievement for that run. I mean, look at this beauty. You could watch this all day.
(Also, can we talk for a second about how the Hurricanes scored seven unanswered goals against Columbus last Saturday and yet Aho, unquestionably the team’s most productive offensive player, was held off the scoresheet entirely and skated to a minus-1? Lies, damn lies, and statistics.)
Just a few days later, of course, Aho would enter Covid-19 protocols and forced the Hurricanes to turn into international diplomats to get him and a pair of others home in time for Christmas. Which is how we got to where we are now, with the Canes having been off for nearly a week and raring to go to actually do something other than play each other in practice.
And they’ll be able to do it with a full-strength lineup: in what qualifies as breaking news given the atmosphere around the NHL right now, the Hurricanes have gone nearly a week with no players in the Covid protocol, and other than the injuries to Jordan Martinook and Brendan Smith, they are all set to field a full-strength lineup tonight.
Here’s how they’ll look:
Nino Niederreiter – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov – Vincent Trocheck – Jesper Fast
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Eric Staal – Martin Necas
Steven Lorentz – Derek Stepan – Seth Jarvis
Jaccob Slavin – Tony DeAngelo
Brady Skjei – Brett Pesce
Ian Cole – Ethan Bear
Injuries and Scratches: Jordan Martinook (lower body), Brendan Smith (lower body)
Meanwhile, the Flames are wrapping up a four-game road trip with their visit to Raleigh tonight. It hasn’t gone well, other than a win over the Blackhawks earlier in the week, but a back-to-back swing through Florida saw the Flames outscored 10-3 and now they get to finish up with a visit to the top team in the NHL by points percentage.
The Flames were what amounted to the patient zero of the NHL’s monthlong battle against Covid, with nearly the entire team entering the protocol at some point in the past month. But they’re back to full strength again as well, with Brett Ritchie, the last of the protocol bunch, exiting for the two games against Florida and Tampa earlier this week.
With the Flames facing an extended break thanks to the Canadian attendance restrictions following tonight’s game, and looking at their third game in four nights, they’ll certainly be expected to empty the tank at PNC tonight. Here’s how they’ll look in doing so:
Johnny Gaudreau – Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk
Blake Coleman – Mikael Backlund – Brett Ritchie
Dillon Dube – Sean Monahan – Andrew Mangiapane
Milan Lucic – Brad Richardson – Trevor Lewis
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
Oliver Kylington – Chris Tanev
Nikita Zadorov – Erik Gudbranson
Injuries and Scratches: Adam Ruzicka (healthy), Michael Stone (healthy), Tyler Pitlick (healthy)
Referees: Dan O’Rourke #9, T.J. Luxmore #21
Linesmen: Libor Suchanek #60, Tyson Baker #88